Today, I am proud to be sharing with you a middle grade tale of upheaval, dreams and friendship.
“Set against the backdrop of Karachi, Pakistan, Saadia Faruqi’s tender and honest middle grade novel tells the story of two girls navigating a summer of change and family upheaval with kind hearts, big dreams, and all the right questions.
Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. Secretly, she wishes to find her long-absent father, and plans to write to him in her beautiful new journal.
The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen?
Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.”
This is a throughly relatable story about two girls who at first glance seem to live very different lives. I loved the way the chapters alternated between telling the story from both the girls’ perspectives. This makes it easy for the reader to compare the girls situations, spotting similarities as well as differences and misconceptions.
The descriptions of modern Karachi are so richly woven that it seems to lift off the page and unfold in front of you. Faruqi also gently introduces her readers to societal issues such as marriage, class and religion, providing plenty of points for discussion and reflection.
A warm-hearted, fast-paced story about the power of friendship.
Introducing the Author: Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American writer, interfaith activist, and cultural-sensitivity trainer and is the author of the early-reader Yasmin series and A Thousand Questions. She resides in Houston, Texas, with her family.
What A Children’s Book Can Teach Us All
By Saadia Faruqi
Before I became a full-time writer, I was an interfaith and intercultural activist. This is just a fancy way of saying I liked making friends with people who were completely different from me. Part of this work was bringing people together in small group discussions. Part of it was organizing book clubs. And part of it was more formal and intimidating, such as speaking to large groups.
What I loved most were the conversations. Talking to someone new can be scary, but not if you have a goal in mind. My goal was always to learn more about the other person, and hopefully find something in common with them.
When I became a writer, a lot of these activities stopped because I didn’t have time anymore. Yet the core of what I believed and enjoyed doing stayed with me. I’ve transferred it into my books now, in everything I write. Instead of conversations, I now tell stories to my readers. Instead of finding something in common with someone else, I allow my readers to find something in common with the characters in my books.
My newest middle grade novel ‘A Thousand Questions’ is a perfect example of my intercultural activities in action. It is a very unlikely friendship story, between two main characters who couldn’t be more different from each other if they tried. Mimi is American, while Sakina is Pakistani. Mimi has money and goes to school and plays games on her phone, while Sakina is poor and has to work for a living to support her family. But when they get to know each other, they realize two very important things.
Firstly, they learn that assumptions are almost never accurate. Mimi seems rich to Sakina, but in reality she and her mom have struggled financially since her dad left. Mimi’s lonely and awkward and yearns for a family. Sakina on the other hand, may seem like a poor servant in hand-me-downs, but she has a fulfilling life and is proud to work to support her family. She is confident and intelligent, and passionate about her opinions.
As the girls get to know each other, they realize a second important thing. They discover that even though they are worlds apart, they have something in common: big dreams. Mimi wants to find her father, and Sakina wants to go to school. They decide to help each other, and their dreams become the common ground they base their friendship on.
Intercultural activism is the same. People who yearn to live in peace and harmony can come together and find common ground, because they know how important that is. They are willing to invest the time and effort to get to know someone who is very different from them. They are willing to discover a friendship, even if their new friend is from another country, or speaks another language.
Turns out that Mimi and Sakina can teach us all a thing or two.
Thank you, Saadia. I think we could all learn lessons from Mimi and Sakina about seeing past differences with others and looking for the similarities.
*Thank you to Saadia and Harper 360 for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour*