Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos

Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos (Atheneum, 2006)(see excerpt). Nadira, 14, has always been the plump one, the less-bright one, the dim light behind the shining star of her older sister Aisha, 18. After September 11, their family of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh seeks asylum in Canada. They are turned away at the border, and Abba (father) is arrested. As time passes and hope grows dim, it’s Nadira who must find her voice and make people see her, believe in her–and accept. Ages 10-up.

My Thoughts

This novel touches on important issues–deportation, residency, asylum, prejudice. Yet it also shines as a story of family–of siblings and parents and children, trying to navigate their way through a dual cultural context as well as a sometimes rushed, sometimes uncaring bureaucracy.

Nadira’s loyalty to her family and her determination to clear her father’s name are especially memorable.

It’s a tremendous challenge to write a novel like this, that strongly relates to a controversial, politically and emotionally charged situation in such a way that it is accessible to young readers and will resonate with them, but Marina does so with great grace and authority.

More informally, the court room scene reminded me vaguely of the closing one in “My Cousin Vinney,” in that She Who Is Least Expected To (But Not Really) makes a difference.

Cynsational Notes

Like me, Marina is from a writing family. Her husband is author-editor Marc Aronson.

Cynsational News & Links

A number of people have inquired as to whether my husband Greg Leitich Smith and I will be hosting WriteFest again this year. We have elected not to do so as I’m still settling into my competing responsibilities on the faculty of the M.F.A. program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College/Union Institute and University. However, we may revisit the idea of sponsoring the program in the future.

“Self-editing Your Middle-Grade Book” by Margot Finke, Musings January 2006, from The Purple Crayon.