Thank you to Running Press Kids (Perseus Books, Running Press) and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC to read and review. In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natasha Deen is set to be published April 9, 2019.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Summary (via NetGalley):
A Guyanese girl must find the balance between her parents’ “old world” expectations and traditions while pursuing her dream of being a great trumpeter in this contemporary, coming-of-age story, written by an #OwnVoices author.
Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira’s grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it’s now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion.
As if fighting with her parents weren’t bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie “Mac,” take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira’s much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily’s attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira’s trusted trumpet “George” remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama.
But it isn’t until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she’s not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible.
A relatable and timely contemporary, coming-of age story, In the Key of Nira Ghani explores the social and cultural struggles of a teen in an immigrant household.
A slow start to a great ending all things considered. There is an honest poignancy to the story of a Guyanese immigrant teen trying to break preconceived notions about her through music. The disparity between Nira and the other kids at school – both socially and culturally – is an extremely relatable concept that rings true for many.
It took a while to really get into the story and I think it was because of my reaction to certain, unlikable characters in the book. The book bellows the sentiment, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” and learning to understand someone by “walking a mile in their shoes.” But there were a couple instances were Nira took the blame and understand the other’s view while others not understanding where she’s coming from and seeing that her reactions to certain events were normal, justified human reactions. Don’t expect someone to suddenly like you if every time before that their interactions with you involve racists comments whether you meant them or not.
Nira’s Grandma is the best. A wise, calm sage in the midst of chaos. She’s also funny. I don’t know if tea really does solve everything, but it’s something I can get behind.
I really liked learning about Guyanese culture and seeing its varying effects on Nira and her family. They all want to be more than what there were/are than what they left behind. It made the conflict gripping. You end up cheering for everyone in the process to do better and be better. I loved how this story is a reflection the author’s own experiences and those of her parents. You could really feel the raw, realness of what was going on. Everything seemed more upfront from start to finish.
There’s a lot of struggles and feelings for each dynamic character (and I would say most of them were) to undergo dramatic changes in how they view the world and each other. I think there’s something positive in this story that every reader can take away from reading it.