|Home is not a country|
Author: Elhillo, Safia
In this novel written in free verse, Nima doesn't feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider. And most recently, by her childhood friend. As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen and she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.
Kirkus Reviews (+) (01/01/21)
School Library Journal (00/01/21)
Booklist (+) (03/01/21)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 01/01/2021 Gr 6 Up—Sudanese American poet Elhillo invites readers into her dreamlike story of 15-year-old Nima, who struggles with loneliness and the possibilities of the road not taken. Growing up in the United States, Nima wonders what life would be like if she spoke Arabic fluently, if her father hadn't died, if her mother had not left a country where everyone had dark eyes, sepia-toned skin, and textured hair like her, or if she had been given a name she felt she could live up to. In this novel in verse, Elhillo shows readers the beauty of what could have been, and the pain of being labeled a terrorist. When Nima's best friend, Haitham, is attacked, a series of dangerous events unfold, yet readers are given no real resolution. Told in three parts, the flow is a bit disjointed, but overall this is a quick and engaging story. Fans of Elizabeth Acevedo's Clap When You Land or Samira Ahmed's Love, Hate & Other Filters will enjoy this look at identity and acceptance. VERDICT A unique verse novel that looks at how our past choices influence identity and sense of belonging.—Monisha Blair, Rutgers Univ., NJ - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 03/01/2021 *Starred Review* Exploring themes of finding oneself and finding home after immigration, Elhillo’s sophisticated debut, Home Is Not a Country, will entrance readers with its deft use of language and blurred divide between reality and possibility. Nearly 15, Nima can’t understand what made her mother leave her beautiful homeland to raise her then-unborn child in the U.S. Photos sparkling with laughter and songs crooned in Arabic fill Nima’s apartment and capture the teen’s imagination as she contemplates how much happier her mother would be in another country or with a different daughter, Yasmeen. This imagined daughter of love and beauty, named for her mother’s favorite flower, becomes a fixation in Nima’s mind, sister and alterego perfectly bound as the person Nima should have been. These sullen musings become unexpectedly real after Nima’s best and only friend, Haitham, is attacked—presumably for his race—in a parking lot and hospitalized. A fight with her mother on the way to visit him sends Nima running off, surprisingly stepping into her mother’s past with Yasmeen as her guide. There, Nima observes what really drove her mother from her home, as the girl finds bittersweet answers to many of her questions and receives harsh truths from the mouth of Yasmeen. These revelations act as a much-needed awakening for Nima, who is able to make slight changes to the past that lead to a happier present, though none more than the metamorphosis she herself undergoes in this surreal crash-course in perspective, agency, and self-love. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.