Wednesday, May 12, 2021


Faruqi, Reem. Unsettled
May 11th 2021 by HarperCollins
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this novel in verse, Nurah's father has gotten a job in the US, and moves the family to Georgia for better opportunities in education and employment than they have in Pakistan. They leave behind a grandmother who is suffering from dementia, friends, and a home that they love. The US is different, and starting in an extended stay hotel while they look for a house is not ideal. Nurah's brother, Owais, joins the local swim team with her, but isn't his usual self. Another girl at the pool, Stahr (who lived very near Nurah's new house), also wears long sleeves when she swims, but it's because her father is abusive. Nurah's mother has a miscarriage and is very depressed about it, and Stahr's mother visits. This connection helps both of them, and Stahr is a good friend to Nurah, who struggles with some other students who make mean comments and are generally unwelcome. Nurah doesn't feel as confident speaking up in the US as she did back in Pakistan, but when she sees repeated injustices, she starts to rebuild her confidence and starts to speak up for herself and others. 
Strengths: There have been a lot of books lately about immigrants who have little choice but to leave their home countries because of war or other reasons, so it is interesting to see Nurah's perspective when her parents want to come to the US but she would rather stay. It was great that she was involved in the swim team. The reaction of the other students is unfortunate, but hopefull books such as this one can help young readers understand what it is like to move to a completely new environment. The page decorations are attractive, and  comparisons to both Other Words for Home and Front Desk are apt. Teachers who like a lot of lyrical descriptions and figurative, poetic language will love this one. 
Weaknesses: It would have been nice to see more of Nurah's life in Pakistan, so the contrast to life in the US was more vivid. There's a lot going on, with the grandmother, the mother's miscarriage, and Stahr's bad family situation. Since the book is fairly short, it would have been nice to see more of Nurah and her family's adjustment to school, foods, her home, and friendships.
What I really think: While I would like to see stories about immigrant children that don't have so many sad things happening, that is often the reality. Most of my students with roots in other countries came to the US when they were very, very young, so don't have an experience like Nurah's. It's important to have lots of different stories, and I hope in time we get more like Khan's Zayd Saleem or Pancholy's The Best at It that have stories centered around middle grade activities with students with a variety of cultural background. (I'd love to see more children from Somali, Ghana, Nepal, Iran or Eritrea, because that's the background many of my students have.)

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