Hope Ablaze

Macmillan Young Listeners. Feb. 2024. 943p. $19.99. ISBN 9781250331274.
Gr 7 Up–Kidwai’s training as a classical singer enables an impressive range of emotive voices that significantly upgrades debut novelist Rana’s meandering pages—a prose/poetry hybrid—into a notable performance, bolstered by writer and narrator’s shared Pakistani American heritage. When Nida is intimidated, frisked, and her hijab forcibly removed by police patrolling a political rally for a Senate Democratic candidate, her reaction is to write out her helpless frustration, anger, fear, and truth. When that poetry is submitted—without her knowledge—to a national competition and wins, Nida is thrown into a glaring spotlight she never wanted. Rampant Islamophobia gets her labeled a terrorist, not unlike her wrongfully incarcerated poet uncle. Kidwai’s Nida is richly multi-layered—thoughtful, bewildered, tenacious. Kidwai also excels as wise older sister Zaynab, myopic white friend Alexis, and entitled hypocritical politician Wilson.
VERDICT Libraries may want to choose audio over print in adding to their collections.

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