American As Paneer Pie

Eleven year old Lekha is the only Indian American girl in her school and definitely feels like an outcast in the mostly-white Detroit neighborhood she calls home. Her classmates make ignorant remarks about her family’s culture, language, and tease her about her birthmark (that just so happens to be on her forehead, just like a Bindi).

Lekha has learned to suppress everything that makes her different from everyone else - she never brings her favorite Indian foods to lunch, covers her birthmark with her hair, and stays silent when she, or anyone else, is teased. When a new Desi kid, Avantika, moves in across the street everything begins to change. Avantika speaks up about her culture and celebrates it when all Lekha has done is hide it. Lekha is impressed and embarrassed by Avantika’s ability to lean into her culture and heritage. But when a local political election spawns a hate crime against Lekha’s family, she knows she can’t stay silent and complacent any longer.

This heartfelt book is not only about the extremely important topic of racism and microaggressions, but is also funny and thought-provoking. Lekha’s character is extremely realistic and many kids will relate to her struggle of finding their footing and reaffirming their identity. As an #ownvoices title, this novel provides a really great background and insight on Indian and Indian American culture, which allows an excellent ‘windows and mirrors' opportunity for Desi children to see themselves represented and for non-Desi children to see other experiences than their own. 

Fans of this books can look for other great stories such as Front Desk by Kelly Yang, Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan, or The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy. Suggested for ages 8-12. Reviewed by Ginny H.

This title can also be found as an E-Audio title on Cloud Library and Hoopla