In the Key of Nira Ghani Review

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a Guyanese person myself I am SO happy to come across an #ownvoices novel about my people that I can relate to! Natasha Deen wrote her protagonist in a way non-Guyanese people can understand – extremely helpful to a reader like me who’s not savvy to their culture myself! The pace is excellent, and her writing kept me engaged. My only complaint is the confusion over Nira’s beliefs. She mentions God and gods, which perplexed me over which religion she observes. Natasha mentions Nira’s grandma is Hindu but she never states what Nira’s parents observe after her uncle states during a family gathering there are various religious observances present amongst their relatives who are Christian, Muslim, Agnostic, and Atheist. I also felt the White classmate who made racist jokes as a sign of “friendship” was let off the hook too easily. Everyone knows racist jokes will do the opposite regardless of the person’s intent, but other than the two abovementioned faults I mentioned this novel is a worthy addition to those looking for non-Hispanic Caribbean or South American Literature!

Synopsis from Amazon:

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.

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