How to Find What You're Not Looking For
September 14, 2021
New historical fiction from a Newbery Honor–winning author about how middle schooler Ariel Goldberg's life changes when her big sister elopes following the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, and she's forced to grapple with both her family's prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences, as she defines her own beliefs.
Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg's life feels like the moment after the final guest leaves the party. Her family's Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel's only constant, she's left to hone something that will be with her always--her own voice.
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I love that this is based on the author's own background of having a Jewish American mother and father from Mumbai. We need more stories about families who have been in the US for quite a while; it might help people understand how unnecessary and hurtful the question "Where are you from?" can be. Working in the current event of Loving vs. Virginia gives this a wider historical perspective. The long time family bakery was interesting, and the hard work involved in such an enterprise, and the economic difficulty of running one, was poignant. Leah's struggles with her relationship with Raj, and the parents' objections, were completely realistic for the time, and a good example of how things have changed, if only incrementally. Ari's learning disability (dysgraphia) is one that I haven't seen portrayed in middle grade literature, and the depiction of how she deals with it, how her parents feel about it, and the efforts of the new, young teacher are all interesting. This story combines several different elements in a compelling way that I think will make it a popular choice with many readers.
The writing in this was very interseting, because it is written in the second person and in the present tense.Reading it felt a little bit like I had an uncomfortable tag poking the back of my neck. Perhaps that was the point?
I love the range of Hirandani's work, and look forward to what she writes next. A great addition to historical fiction about the immigrant experience, such as Dumas' It Ain't So Awful, Falafel, Yang's Front Desk, Perkins' You Bring the Distant Near, and Behar's Lucky Broken Girl.
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