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The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen Hardcover – May 3, 1993


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 and up
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers; Reissue edition (May 3, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316699438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316699433
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,318,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sunita Sen, the eighth-grade heroine of this disarming first novel, is sure that her grandparents' protracted visit from India will ruin her social life. She wants only to be normal--but her mother, the college teacher, has traded in her wardrobe of tailored suits for a succession of sarees, and Sunita can no longer invite boys over. Torn between her love for her family and self-consciousness about their Indian traditions, Sunita walls herself off from everyone. Gradually, however, she learns to appreciate the possibilities of a cultural mingling. To Perkins's credit, this change occurs naturally and not as the direct result of any one conflict or event. Perkins combines her fresh, unaffected prose with moving bits of Indian poetry and lore, rendering this well-thought-out investigation of cultural identity doubly moving. Colorful material about Indian customs, language and religion is sturdily woven into a funny, honest and homespun story. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-9-- When her (Eastern) Indian grandparents arrive for a year-long visit, outgoing eighth grader Sunita Sen feels caught between two cultures. Her Westernized upbringing is threatened when her parents discourage visits from boys; her cosmopolitan mother dons traditional dress and takes a sabbatical from her college teaching job; and the aroma of curry fills the house each day. Embarrassed by her heritage, Sunita withdraws from her classmates. But her friends are admirably patient and tolerate her rebuffs, and gradually she begins to appreciate her grandparents' wisdom and values. In a cathartic moment, she discovers that her mother has been under pressure, too, and is also unhappy with the family's altered lifestyle. This novel realistically addresses numerous issues, including Sunita's temporary rejection of an African-American classmate when both girls are referred to as "colored." Her adolescent angst over social acceptance, family discord, and personal identity will be familiar to readers; positive solutions and role models are presented for dealing with cultural differences, peer relationships, and domestic problems. --Gerry Larson, Chewning Junior High School, Durham, NC
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

I write novels for young readers, speak at conferences, schools, and libraries, and chat about writing, books, and life between cultures. Visit me on Mitali's Fire Escape (mitaliblog.com) or track me at twitter.com/mitaliperkins.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
I happen to like this book alot.
Sonitha
Giving the reader the sense that she has lived the story herself, Ms. Perkins handles the topic of multicultural identity with great alacrity.
Christine Louise Hohlbaum
The story is well written and artfully describes a contemporary teen dilemma.
ReadingTub Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Tibbetts VINE VOICE on July 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Sunita Sen isn't black or white, red or yellow. She was born in Kolkata, India. For most of her life that was perfectly okay with her. In fact her nickname, Sunni matched her sunny, cheerful outlook. At the end of her 13th summer, she is on top of the world. She and Michael Morrison are seeing more and more of each other and looking forward to 8th grade. But her carefree American life is shattered when her grandparents arrive from India to spend a year with her family. Her mom takes a leave of absence from her job as a chemistry professor. She starts wearing sarees and cooking Indian food. To make matters worse, she informs Sunni that it's no longer okay to have boys come to visit. On top of all that, her new social studies teacher begins the school year with the topic of cultural diversity, which only makes Sunni even more aware of her differences. Suddenly -- and for all those reasons -- she withdraws from her friends and family. Torn between her desire to be a normal American teen and her love for her Indian family, Sunni struggles to meld the two cultures into her life. In the process she must face up to her own prejudices.

Sunni comes across as so genuine that any teen will easily relate to her dilemma. Through her exploration and discovery of her heritage, Perkins offers readers an intimate view of Indian culture. "The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen" is a sensitive and realistic portrayal of the unique pressures facing multi-cultural teens.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 1999
Format: Paperback
In the Sunita Experiment, Mitali Perkins captures the "culture clash" issues that young Indian-Americans face in school and at home. Perkins' title character, Sunita, took me back to my junior high days when I was trying to figure out how Indian or how American I wanted to be. Throughout this book, I was able to identify with Sunita's emotions and behavior. Like Sunita, I was sometimes annoyed with Indian traditions and longed to be more "American". At other times, I was proud of my Indian heritage.
I am 23 yrs old now. I grew up in Wisconsin where the Indian-American community is very small. I would have loved to have read this book when I was in grade school. This book would have made me realize that the feelings I had were not unusual. And my family wasn't so weird after all. I recommend this book to all young Indian-Americans. Parents too could use this book as a way to better understand their children's feelings.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Abi-Ru Shirzan on July 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Both my 9-year-old Bengali-American daughter and American me enjoyed this book. Sunita, the protagonist, is NOT "too good to be true." Much of her charm lies in the honesty with which she is depicted. She can be thoughtless and even cruel, and yet she is always an attractive heroine.
Children of two cultures may well identify with the embarrassment Sunita feels when her "different " grandparents come to town and her parents are transformed into traditional Indians. Any young woman is likely to feel that Sunita's problems and her ways of coping with and avoiding them are much like her own. Educational without being "preachy." A fine read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Squiggly Line on February 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
Squiggly Line

ISBN:031615525

The Wanna-be All-American girl

"He is still watching,waiting until she comes gliding down the stairs. Her golden bangels clinking together in a melodious song."

Meet Sunita Sen an eighth grader who's Indian. Her life was fine until her grandparents came to stay for a year. Ashamed of her heritage she keeps to herself. Her mom even tells her she can't have boys over-meaning her friend Michael. Sunita makes an excuse to avoid him. Over time Sunita grows fond of her family but not so fast. Find out in this wonderful historical fiction book.

Though the book can be a bit confusing it's a page turner. I thought the book was ok because I like the cultural stuff but sometimes my mind would go blank thinking about the book and I would not comprehend what Sunita was thinking sometimes. People who read this book I think should be 14-17 years old. Because people younger or even people who are 13 probably will easily be bored or won't quite get what is going on with the main character. To add more to the subject it was hard to concentrate on because sometimes I couldn't understand and have to re-read it and didn't know what they were wearing sometimes. I liked the book because I absolutely love the history of our world and I have never learned so much about India than I have in this book. I liked this genre alot because it taught me that some of us don't like our heritage or where we came from. Or that we are not like everybody else because we have diffierent customs than they do. My most favorite part about the book was the cliff hangers at the end of most of the chapters like this one: "As I flopped down on my bed I knew in a few minutes my life would come crashing down. Then the door bell rang." But all in all I totally reccomend this book to everyone who is willing to read a book about a cultural, pressured,Indian girl name Sunita Sen.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Christine Louise Hohlbaum on May 19, 2005
Format: Paperback
This teen novel depicts the life of Sunita Sena, a thirteen year-old girl of Indian heritage whose grandparents come from India to visit for the year. The reader witnesses Sunita's transformation from a shy, angry youth to a more mature teenager who celebrates her place in the world.

Feeling different is a common theme in teen literature. Sunita feels at odds with her environment because her carefully scripted assimilation into American culture is rudely interrupted by the arrival of her grandparents. Her mother is suddenly bustling about the kitchen, wearing a sari and reeking of curry. Sunita is embarrassed at her mother's transformation and seeks to hide her own identity from the people she loves dearly. Her relationships with others suffer, but most of all, Sunita's relationship with herself suffers the greatest loss.

Ms. Perkins' well-written prose places the reader right in the midst of a contemporary teen dilemma. Giving the reader the sense that she has lived the story herself, Ms. Perkins handles the topic of multicultural identity with great alacrity. The reader feels compassion towards Sunita as she struggles to gain her personal freedom amidst rumor mills, peer pressure and the aromas of a distant land.

Sunita's relationship to her grandfather remains a constant staple throughout the book. His wisdom, calm and ability to handle conflict with grace will help the young reader find her own way in the maze of adolescence.

I highly recommend The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen. It is very enjoyable read!

Christine Louise Hohlbaum, award-winning American writer and author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff (2003) and SAHM I Am: Tales of a Stay-at-Home Mom in Europe (2005), lives near Munich, Germany with her husband and two children. Visit her Web site at [...]
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