Sunday, May 23, 2010

TELL US WE'RE HOME by Marina Budhos

I received a copy of TELL US WE'RE HOME from Atheneum/Simon & Schuster and couldn't wait to crack it open. The story is a twist on the usual teen girl friendship novel - in this tale, the protagonists are Jaya, Maria, and Lola, eighth-grade daughters of maids and nannies in an affluent New Jersey suburb.

This is the paragraph that made my eyes sting:
Lola began to weep. This was it, the steely truth of her life. What she had been fighting ever since they'd come to America. This was a lonely land of firsts, where no one, not even your parents, could help you cross over. And she had no choice but to do it by herself . . . You pushed ahead, in the chilling rain, hoping you didn't die from being first.
That paragraph resonated deeply for me. Maybe because I am one of those "firsts" and know the cutting truth of those words. But also maybe because it is true for so many who've landed on these shores as strangers in a strange land.

Budhos touches on so many issues in this novel of social and personal awakening - the fallacy of the American dream, the myth of meritocracy, entitlement, class-based arrogance/ignorance, and xenophobia, just to start.

The girls' relationship with one another is sweet, but I was most won over by the relationships between the mothers and daughters. All girls are either fatherless, or un-fathered (under-fathered?). The plight of single mothers carrying the full emotional and financial burden of raising their children in a new land that cuts them little to no slack is heart-breaking. Not to mention that these same women must often neglect their own children's needs to tend to the needs and whims of their employers' children (or parents, as the case may be).

Budhos handles these issues with a light, deft touch. And everything is not wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end, either. It is left exactly as Life leaves things - untidy. But TELL US WE'RE HOME  is a satisfying read for both teen readers and adults alike. Pick up a copy now here, or at Indiebound. And visit Marina's site for more info about her and her other works.


cleemckenzie said...

"A lonely land of firsts," is magnificent. I've lived in those lonely lands, but I never had to stay there, so I only have the sense of the real impact. Thanks, Neesha.

Doret said...

I am looking forward to reading this one very soon.

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