Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blue Jasmine

Sheth, Kashmira. 2004. BLUE JASMINE. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786818557 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

While the descriptions of Iowa City, the Trivedi’s new home in this stranger-in-a-strange-land novel, are generic, the descriptions of their family home in Vishanagar, India are beautifully detailed. The dialogue, even when Sheth isn’t trying to reproduce less than fluent English, is stilted, but the view of America through foreign eyes is stunning: “America was everything I’d heard it would be, and yet nothing could have prepared me for America. What struck me the most was that everything was big. Not only were the roads four lanes wide, but the gas pumps had eight stations. The city was dressed like an elegant lady, and the buildings seemed to have conversations with clouds. Stores were so large that they were never crowded. I remembered Vishanagar’s bazaar, where people brushed against my shoulder as they walked past me. Here, there was space and no people to fill it. Where were they all?”

The situations, based on the author’s own immigrant experiences, are absolutely believable, and range from heart-breaking to joyous. The BOOKLIST review of August 1, 2004, concludes, “Filled with details that document an immigrant’s observations and experiences, Seema’s story, which articulates the ache for distant home and family, will resonate with fellow immigrants and enlighten their classmates.”

Take something uniquely American, like a football game or Thanksgiving dinner, and try to describe it in a letter to a pen pal in a foreign country who knows nothing about it. Which components are the most typical descriptions for our culture?

Carrie makes fun of Seema’s appearance, English, and lunch food. Why? How does Seema react? Is this the best strategy for dealing with bullies? Have you ever seen or experienced anything like this? Encourage discussion.

Other books about Indians in England or America:
Dhami, Narinder. BINDI BABES. ISBN 0385731779
Perkins, Mitali. MONSOON SUMMER. ISBN 038573123X

By Julie Brinker

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