cover image A Thousand Questions

A Thousand Questions

Saadia Faruqi. Quill Tree, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-294320-0

Faruqi (A Place at the Table) deftly explores Pakistani culture through the dual perspectives of Mimi and Sakina, two girls from different backgrounds. Eleven-year-old Maryam “Mimi” Scotts lives in Texas with her Pakistan-born single mother, after her American father, who is white, left them to further his journalistic career. Financial difficulties have forced them to return to Karachi, her mother’s birthplace, to visit the grandparents Mimi has never met. In Karachi, 11-year-old Sakina’s diabetic father is a servant for Mimi’s grandmother, whose callous pride alienates her dependents; Sakina helps him in the kitchen but longs to attend New Haven School, whose admissions test she has already failed once due to a low score in English. After a rocky beginning, the girls start to grow closer: Mimi agrees to help Sakina improve her English, and Sakina helps Mimi locate her father. Cultural differences complicate the budding friendship: humor is occasionally lost in translation, and both are initially quick to condemn the other’s lack of cultural knowledge as ignorance. But the likeable heroines develop a touching connection that enhances the fast-paced plot and counterpoints tense situations with their families. The novel’s observations about other societal issues—including religion, politics, wealth, and marriage—add thought-provoking touches. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kari Sutherland, Bradford Literary. (Oct.)