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Sandhya Nankani "www.literarysafari.com" RSS Feed (New York, NY)
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Saffron Dreams (Reflections of America)
Saffron Dreams (Reflections of America)
by Shaila Abdullah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $32.07
41 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A much-needed perspective, January 23, 2009
We have read numerous stories in the mainstream media about the widows of 9/11. Not so many about the Muslim victims. In her novel "Saffron Dreams," Shaila Abdullah fills a void in that literature by providing the perspective of a pregnant Pakistani woman who loses her husband--a writer with a masters in literature who worked as a waiter in the Windows on the World restaurant--on September 11. Inspired by the true story of Baraheen Ashrafi, a Bangladeshi woman who was widowed two days before the birth of her second child, Abdullah's novel follows her main character on her journey through the five stages of grief as she reconstructs her life in a worldthat views her as a perpetrator of the violence, not as a victim.

Intertwined with flashbacks to Arissa's childhood in Pakistan, this novel provides a valuable insight into secular, upper middle class Pakistani society. A much-needed perspective in the void of the American Muslim experience, this is an unflinching look at the societal pressures of widowhood, the role that art can play in the healing process, and the impact of media bias and stereotyping on the Muslim American community in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.


George's Secret Key to the Universe
George's Secret Key to the Universe
by Stephen Hawking
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.39
188 used & new from $0.01

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Theoretical Physics Made Fun for Kids, November 5, 2007
Who says you can't explain theoretical physics to kids? Certainly not Stephen and Lucy Hawking, the authors of this children's adventure novel.

Stephen Hawking is the bestselling author of A Brief History of Time which has been said to "marry a child's wonder to a genius's intellect." Lucy Hawking is his daughter and a journalist. George's Secret Key to the Universe is their first collaboration, and what fun it is!

Alongside a tale of scientific adventure, the Hawkings provide readers with scientific diagrams, charts, and full-color photos of real images from space, with help from Christophe Galfard, a former student of Stephen Hawking. The line illustrations by Garry Parsons also add a lighthearted feel to the book--the representation of George was charmingly reminiscent of The Little Prince--and they certainly complement the voice of the novel - innocent, curious, and playful.

The novel also includes Hawking's latest ideas on black holes. They are presented within the story as a series of scientist Eric's notes, complete with handwritten doodles and age-appropriate language for Annie and George.

In the 1994 bestseller Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy (Fsg Classics), Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder gifted us with a fascinating primer on philosopher in novel form. He took us into the world of Sophie, a 15 year old who learned about the wisdom of thinkers from the pre-Socrates to St. Augustine through a series of letters from a mysterious correspondent. All the while, she was trying to solve a mystery. The device of wrapping intellectual lessons within a fictional narrative worked. It snapped up readers who might otherwise not pick up a "serious" work about high ideas--and allowed philosophy to seep into pop culture and the hands of the masses.

Lucy and Stephen Hawking's book does the same thing--it packs lessons about the science of physics into an exciting children's adventure, complete with likable (though sometimes stereotypical) characters. The end result: an informative and entertaining read for kids and adults alike. If I were a science teacher, I'd seriously consider employing the book in a middle or high school science curriculum.

Bonus: the book has a fun companion website: [...]


Home of the Brave
Home of the Brave
by Katherine A. Applegate
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.52
83 used & new from $0.01

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving middle grade novel about immigration and arrival, September 5, 2007
This review is from: Home of the Brave (Hardcover)
Having been an arrival to this country at age 12, I've always been interested in books that explore questions such as "What is home?" "What does it mean to be a stranger in a new land?" and "How does one begin to belong?"

A novel written in free verse, Home of the Brave is a poignant story about an African war refugee from Sudan named Kek who arrives in the US in the thick of winter in--of all places--Minnesota. His father and brother have been killed, his mother is missing, and he has lost everything about his life that he has ever known. Welcome to America.

From a dry, hot land where he was part of a nomadic herding tribe, Kek has arrived in a freezing cold country where he must not only learn a new language, but also make friends and cultivate hope for his future. Usually the optimist, even Kek feels distraught upon his arrival at his new home
In the course of this tender tale, Kek makes friends--with a neighbor living in foster care, with an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and with an aging cow named Gol (which means "family" in his native language). His relationship with Gol is critical to his sense of belonging--and interestingly, it's one where language is not important.

Through a combination of touching and humorous vignettes (my favorite being the time when he puts his aunt's dishes in the "washing machine," i.e. the laundry!), Applegate allows us to accompany Kek on his journey to find "home." And, isn't that something we all want to find?

Once in a while a children's story comes along that carries you away with lyrical language, an authentic voice, and a story that allows you to make connections much larger than its plot. For me, Home of the Brave did all of the above. I'd highly recommend it as a companion read to Shaun Tan's Arrival, as well as on reading lists that deal with refugees, immigration, and home.


Ask Me No Questions
Ask Me No Questions
by Marina Tamar Budhos
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from $0.01

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Read, February 9, 2006
This review is from: Ask Me No Questions (Hardcover)
Marina Budhos's first YA novel is a moving story about nation, identity, patriotism, and what it means to be American in post 9-11 America. It is more than just the story of one family's struggle to stay afloat and remain "home" in the midst of crisis. Rather, it gives the experiences of an oft-invisible group of Americans a much-needed voice.

The prose is simple and succinct, and suitable for middle school students, but the content and themes are also sophisticated enough for high school and adult audiences. The theme is timely. The narrator is compelling.

I highly recommend "Ask Me No Questions." It's a valuable addition to post 9-11 literature.


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