Review of A Thousand Questions

A Thousand Questions
by Saadia Faruqi
Intermediate    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    320 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-06-294320-0    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-294322-4    $8.99

Issues of home and belonging form the cornerstones of Faruqi’s (author of the Yasmin early chapter books) first solo middle-grade novel. Mimi and her mother (her father left the family when Mimi was very young) are on a “forced vacation” from Houston to Pakistan to visit Mimi’s only-seen-on-Skype grandparents. There she meets Sakina, the family cook’s daughter, who dreams of a future that hinges on passing an English test to secure admission to school. The girls’ initial hesitation gives way to a tentative friendship through summer afternoons spent learning English and Urdu, tasting mangoes, dealing with errant centipedes, and exploring Karachi together. Mimi, already at odds with her mother, is privy to Mom’s prickly relationship with her own parents, and the family drama is heightened as secrets about Mimi’s father are revealed. Told through the girls’ alternating points of view, the novel examines contemporary urban Pakistan in all its complexity. Faruqi threads issues of privilege, poverty, democracy, and the meaning of family throughout the book. She manages to convey the realities of Sakina’s hardscrabble life and Mimi’s sense of abandonment without being heavy-handed. The author’s note and glossary give a sense of Faruqi’s personal connection to the city and its characters.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Sadaf Siddique is co-author of Muslims in Story: Expanding Multicultural Understanding through Children’s and Young Adult Literature and co-founder of Kitaabworld. She writes about Muslim kid lit and South Asian kid lit at Lantern Reads.

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