Review Detail

Kids Fiction 140
Friends, Moving, and lots of food!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Lehka loves being on the swim team and hanging out with neighbor and friend Noah in her town an hour from Detroit, but she occasionally wishes she weren't the only Desi girl in her school. When new neighbors move in and have a girl her age AND have just come from India, Lehka doesn't quite know what to think. There are a lot of things she has in common with Avantika, but since her new neighbor is a fob (fresh of the boat), she doesn't understand that there are some things you just don't do-- let the other girls know you use coconut oil on your hair, don't bring "smelly" Indian food for lunch, and try to fly beneath the haters' radar instead of challenging them. Things seem to work out for Avantika, but Lehka struggles. She doesn't want to shave her legs even though her swim teammates are pressuring her, but she also doesn't feel at home with her Indian friends in the city. She loves celebrating Hindu holidays with her family and the always understanding Noah, but feels awkward when she is with friends and has to make sure the snacks are gelatin-free because her family is vegetarian. She puts up with constant, daily insults from boys in her class, but when there is a racist incident in her neighborhood and a candidate who is hostile to immigrants is elected, Lehka reexamines her relationships and her level of activism in order to try to make things right for herself and her family.
Good Points
This had lots of great details about Lehka's family dynamics and culture. It was interesting that while her family was unique in their town, they did have access to a larger Indian community in Detroit. Her complicated feelings about Avantika are so typically middle school that it was painful to read about-- but SO true!

I wish that we didn't see the kind of pervasive racism Lehka experiences, but hopefully books like this will make readers aware and help to end it.

This author's Ahimsa has done well for historical fiction in my library, and American as Paneer Pie is a great choice for students who like realistic fiction, especially those who enjoyed other books with culturally connected characters who are interested in social activism like Ramee's A Good Kind of Trouble, Bajaj's Count Me In, and Pancholy's The Best at It.

One warning: don't try to put coconut oil on your poodle's fur. It seemed to work so nicely for Lehka's hair that I tried it on my dog, but she just looked greasy!
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