cover image Home Is Not a Country

Home Is Not a Country

Safia Elhillo. Make Me a World, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-59317705-1

Nostalgia for the unknown controls the rhythm of this resonant novel in verse. Muslim, implied Sudanese American Nima, 14, feels invisible and unmoored, wishing she were “a girl mouth open & fluent who knows where she is from.” Pining for the love of her late father, and facing constant abuse at school because of her accent and identity (“a boy at school/ called me a terrorist”), Nima lives alone with her hijabi mother; her only friend is an energetic boy in her building named Haitham, who feels like a sibling. As rising Islamophobia in their suburban American community increases both the bullying at school and her and her mother’s fear, Nima longs for the life she believes she would have had if she had been named Yasmeen as planned. With her desire to become Yasmeen growing, Nima begins seeing glimpses of her other self while beginning to disappear. After a string of incidents leaves her feeling completely alone, Nima meets Yasmeen, launching both into their parents’ past and homeland to decide which of them will be born. Artfully profound and achingly beautiful, Elhillo’s verse aptly explores diasporic yearning for one’s home and a universal fascination with possibilities. Ages 12–up. [em]Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Mar.) [/em]