American as Paneer Pie

S. & S./Aladdin. May 2020. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534439382.
Gr 4-6–Kelkar depicts the life of Lehka, an 11-year-old Indian American girl navigating two worlds with heart and compassion. As “Home Lehka,” she lives with her parents in a suburb of Detroit, where her family is the only Indian American family in the neighborhood. Her best friend and neighbor, Noah, is appreciative of Lehka’s culture and the flavorful food her family enjoys. But as “School Lehka,” her voice is absent. She allows teachers and students to mispronounce her name and to make disrespectful comments about her heritage. When a new Indian American family—with a daughter Lehka’s age—moves to her neighborhood, she is thrilled, assuming that her new friend Avantika will also prefer to keep her two identities separate. But Avantika confidently talks about her family and traditions, even at school, and Lehka is simultaneously inspired and confused. As she begins taking tentative steps toward speaking up about what matters to her, a classroom assignment to write an opinion piece becomes the catalyst for embracing her identity. Secondary plots and minor characters enrich the story of a girl striving to find her voice, especially in scenes involving Lehka’s swim team and a touching moment in which Lehka speaks out about what it means to be American.
VERDICT Filled with references to Lehka’s rich culture, this title is a tender depiction of a young girl navigating prejudice and finding ways to be her whole self in the process.

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