How to Find What You're Not Looking For

How to Find What You're Not Looking For
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
September 14, 2021
ISBN
978-0525555032
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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.

Editor review

1 review
How little things have changed in 50 years
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Ariel lives with her parents and sister Leah in Connecticut in 1967, having moved there from Brooklyn when her parents wanted to distance themselves from relatives and relocate their bakery. The family is Jewish, but not as observant as some of the family, which has lead to tensions. Unfortunately, their new town does not have very many Jewish people, and Ariel has experienced some racial tensions, but her parents don't want "to make a fuss". When Leah shares with Ariel that she has met a man she really likes, Raj, she asks Ariel to keep it a secret, because Raj's family is from India, and they are Hindu. He's studying at New York University, and worries that his family won't be any more accepting than Leah's. There are other things going on in Ari's life as well. She has a lot of trouble with her handwriting, and struggles with school assignments, but her mother, even after countless meetings with teachers, just thinks that Ari needs to work harder and everything will be fine. Ari's teacher, Miss Field, is impressed with Ari's poetry, and also encourages to do a report on the recent case of Loving vs. Virginia. After her sister makes a sudden but unsurprising decision regarding Raj, Ari is even more interested in this historic civil rights case. When the bakery falls on hard times and the tension in her family increases, will Ari ever be able to make her parents understand how important it is that they continue to communicate with Leah?
Good Points
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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