A dozen years ago, our family made the audacious decision to relocate to Colorado. I can still remember how I fretted over the potential effect on my two youngest sons who were finishing 3rd and 7th grade. My main objective was to minimize the trauma associated with moving to a new state. I did my best to include them in most aspects of the process. As I backed out of the driveway of our Northbrook home for the last time, my youngest son began to whimper uncontrollably. We were leaving his secure world and heading into unknown territory. My chest tightened and my heart raced as I attempted to reassure him that everything would be alright even though I had no idea what he would encounter at his Colorado school or in our new neighborhood. I suddenly had my own set of doubts. How would our family handle this transition? Would novels about moving have comforted him? I doubt it. His main interest was sports and more sports. Although his reading preferences were elsewhere, I cannot discount the effect that fiction may have on others who are trying to cope with one of life’s challenges-moving to a strange place. Two novels that may appeal to kids facing an upcoming move are Blue Jasmine by Kashmira Sheth and The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami. In the Blue Jasmine, Seema’s world is turned upside down when her father accepts a microbiologist position in another country. Seema, a 6th grader, trades her small town existence in India for life in Iowa City, Iowa. Adapting to a new culture and leaving behind a closely knit extended family are predictable challenges that Seema faces. Kashmira effectively uses her first-hand experience of adjusting to life in the U.S as a teenager to her advantage when she focuses on Seema’s sensitive reaction to her first year at an American school. Immigrants from other countries will be able to appreciate Seema’s understanding of what it means to be an “outsider”. Kashmira uses strong dialogue to illustrate the cruelness that foreigner oftentimes face. In one passage Seema overhears a fellow student say, “I’m in the dumb class and I’m bored. Some people don’t even know how to speak English. In my old school people like that would never get admitted.” All readers will pick up factual information about life in India from Seema’s words and thoughts. The excerpts from her presentation on Kasturba, Mahatma Gandhi’s wife, will provide insight into India’s struggle for freedom. Seema’s touching long distance relationship with one of her former Indian classmates sheds light on India’s rampant poverty. The book is ripe for character analysis. One of Seema’s parting thoughts- “Perhaps the more you learn about the world, I thought, the more you learn about yourself” accentuates Seema’s memorable voice that remains constant throughout the book. The Grand Plan to Fix Everything focuses on immigration from America to India. In this instance, Dini, an eleven year old American, is relocating from Maryland to a rural part of India after her mother accepts a medical grant to work as a doctor in a rural part of India. Intertwined into the drama, is the main character’s love of Bollywood movies and an infatuation with one of India’s leading stars. These two threads run throughout the book as Dini adjusts to Indian life while simultaneously pursuing her dream to meet her idol. This fairytale approach to life, told in the third person, includes a series of coincidences and unrealistic events. The lighthearted nature of the story grabs the attention of anyone who is intrigued by theater, enjoys quirky characters, and adores happy endings. I couldn’t help but chuckle over the numerous references to monkeys. Anyone who reads my memoir will be able to relate to my duel feelings of fascination and fear. The frequent comments regarding the Indian postal service brought to mind the dilapidated post office that was just a couple blocks from my son, Josh’s Bangalore apartment. Other references to the cool mountain air in Swapnagiri reminded me of my fall trip with two of my teaching colleagues to Munnar. Bits and pieces of Indian life can be gathered while reading through the lighthearted and amusing chapters. Both authors use correspondences between key characters to advance their plots. The letters, in both cases, help to draw out the mannerisms of the peripheral characters. Uma’s more recently published book includes email correspondence. Common Themes:
- Family relationships- parent/child and extended family
- Friendship between peers
- Making new friends
- Poverty in India
- Importance of education
- Relocating to a new environment
- Learning to adapt to a new culture
- Background information-India
Which method do you prefer- realistic or imaginative?
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