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Ask Me No Questions


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*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. What is it like to be an illegal alien in New York now. In a moving first-person, present-tense narrative, Nadira, 14, relates how her family left Bangladesh, came to the U. S. on a tourist visa, and stayed long after the visa expired ("Everyone does it. You buy a fake social security number for a few hundred dollars and then you can work."). Their illegal status is discovered, however, following 9/11, when immigration regulations are tightened. When the family hurriedly seeks asylum in Canada, they are turned back, and Nadira's father, Abba, is detained because his passport is no longer valid. The secrets are dramatic ("Go to school. Never let anyone know. Never."), and so are the family dynamics, especially Nadira's furious envy of her gifted older sister, Aisha. But Aisha breaks down, and Nadira must take over the struggle to get Abba out of detention and prevent the family's deportation. The teen voice is wonderfully immediate, revealing Nadira's mixed-up feelings as well as the diversity in her family and in the Muslim community. There's also a real drama that builds to a tense climax: Did Abba give funds to a political organisation. Where has the money gone. Will Immigration hear his appeal. The answer is a surprise that grows organically from the family's story. Readers will feel the heartbreak, prejudice, kindness, and fear. Add this to the titles in "New Immigration Materials"^B in the August 2005 issue's Spotlight on Immigration. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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About the Author

Marina Budhos is the author of such books as Ask Me No Questions, Tell Us We're Home, and Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers. She has received an EMMA (Exceptional Merit Media Award) and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award for women writers. Ms. Budhos has been a Fulbright Scholar in India, has given talks throughout the country and abroad, and has taught at several universities and colleges. She is currently an associate professor of English at William Paterson University. She lives with her husband and fellow Atheneum author, Marc Aronson, and their two sons in Maplewood, New Jersey. You can visit her online at


As Budhos's (House of Waiting, for adults) provocative novel opens, 14-year-old narrator Nadira Hossain and her family are heading north to Canada, seeking asylum from the harassment that has become routine in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11. The family left Bangladesh for America eight years ago on a tourist visa and stayed; the first lawyer they hired to make them legal citizens was a fraud, the second was unsuccessful. At Flushing High in Queens, with a large population of immigrant students, the "policy" is "Ask me no questions," according to Nadira. But just as her sister, Aisha, is interviewing at colleges like Barnard, with a shot at valedictorian, the questions start coming hard and fast to the people of their community-some of whom disappear in the night with immigration officers, detained for months before being deported. In a desperate move, the Hossains travel to Canada, where they are turned away; their father, Abba, is placed in a U.S. jail cell at the border, their mother remains in a shelter nearby, and the girls return to Queens to stay with their aunt and uncle. The message drives the story here; the motivations of the characters are not always clear, and the ending may strike some as a bit tidy. But the events of the novel are powerful enough to engage readers' attention and will make them pause to consider the effects of a legal practice that preys on prejudice and fear. Ages 10-14. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"A thoughtful, riveting tale of post-9/11 America...Beautifully written." -- Chitra Divakaruni, author of "Queen of Dreams"

Gr 7-10-The Hossain family, immigrants from Bangladesh, have been living in New York illegally for many years after their tourist visas expired. Nadira, a shy 14-year-old, has always been jealous of her overachieving older sister, Aisha. But her self-absorbed feelings seem inconsequential after the girls' father, Abba, is arrested at the U.S.-Canadian border shortly after 9/11 for having an expired visa. While their mother remains in a Canadian homeless shelter, the girls return to Queens to stay with relatives and await Abba's fate. The threat of deportation always looms. Certain that she can convince the government that their father's arrest was a mistake, Aisha begins a letter-writing campaign. But when it becomes clear that these efforts are in vain, Aisha's confidence crumbles and she gives up-on everything. It's up to Nadira to be the glue that holds her family together. When Abba's trial begins, Nadira calls upon an inner strength she didn't realize she possessed. Marina Budhos's novel (Atheneum, 2006) paints a compelling portrait of what it was like to be a Muslim teen living in the United States following 9/11. The characters are believable and well-rounded, especially Nadira, who grows from a naive and whiny teenager into a mature, level-headed young woman. Abby Craden's softly accented voice brings to life the emotional turmoil felt by the sisters, and she portrays male and female characters equally well. An excellent listen and an important addition to the study of the immigrant experience.-Alissa Bach, Oxford Public Library, MI (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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