Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
Sam has never known much about her Indian amd Sikh heritage, that is until the bombings of the World Trade Towers in New York City on 9/11. Seventeen-year-old Samar’s mom has always told her that she’s an American, no different than anyone else, so much so that one of the Indian girls at school calls her a “coconut,” brown on the outside but white on the inside. Everything changes when her turbaned uncle shows up on their apartment doorstep one week after the bombings, wanting to reconcile with his sister and bring the family back together. You see, Sam has never met her grand-parents who live only about 90 minutes away, who her mother calls controlling. In fact, she hasn’t spoken to them since she divorced “what’s his name,” which is what she calls Samar’s father, who she’s also never met.
While driving her home from school, some boys attack Uncle Sandeep’s car shouting “Go back home, Osama!” and Samar experiences racism for the first time. Suddenly, everything is different, and Sam becomes sensitive to how her best friend’s family and even her boyfriend Mike respond to Uncle Sandeep. What she learns about her family and her heritage will change her outlook and life forever.
I really liked this book, although it took a little while to get into. Samars discovery about herself, her family’s religion and its heritage felt very realistic to me. I think it’s important for all of us to look at ourselves and our views about South Asians and Middle Easterners before jumping to prejudiced and ignorant conclusions.