Monday, June 18, 2018

MMGM: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani


It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. The divide has created much tension between Hindus and Muslims, and hundreds of thousands are killed crossing borders.

Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can't imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.


Nisha likes her life except for one thing.  Her mother died when she and her twin brother Amil were born.  When she is given a diary for her twelveth birthday, she decides to write letters to her mother.  Life in her village isn't perfect but it isn't bad either.  She and her brother attend the local school where she has no real friends and her brother is bullied but she gets to help out the family cook, Kazi prepare the meals.  Her father is a doctor who works at the local hospital and while he isn't particularly tender, he does take care of them, even though he has little patience for Amil's learning difficulties.

But things take a sudden turn when India gains her independence and tensions between Muslims and Hindus explode into violence.  With a mother who was Muslim and a father who is Hindu, Nisha doesn't understand why this is happening.  Why people who used to get along, don't anymore.  The announcement that India will be split into two separate countries (India and Pakistan) the violence gets worse.  Nisha learns that her family is going to have to leave the only home she's ever known because Hindus are no longer welcome in what will soon be Muslim-dominated Pakistan.  Heart-broken and confused, Nisha must leave behind most of what she's ever known, including her beloved Kazi.  The journey itself is difficult for everyone but meeting her mother's brother offers a spark of hope.

I really enjoyed reading this book and not only because it takes place outside of the United States.  Nisha is a fabulous character, who though she's growing up is still a child in many ways.  She wants to know what the adults are whispering about, but once she finds out, she doesn't understand it and it scares her.  She gets along with her brother most of the time, but they get on each other's nerves sometimes too.  And Nisha struggles with her own personal weaknesses as well, including shyness.  I appreciated the fact that the problems in Nisha's life aren't all solved by the end of the book.  While things are better, her life has still almost completely changed.  Yet hope remains alive and well despite all the heartache and changes in Nisha's life.

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