Samar’s mother is determined that she and her daughter will fit into their community as thoroughly integrated Americans. She has cut off contact with her strict family and avoids involvement with the Punjabi culture and Sikh religion within which she herself was raised. Samar, who goes by Sam, does not question the way she and her mother live—she remembers being bullied as a child for being different, and she feels comfortable with her white friends and typically-American lifestyle. Then, just after September 11, 2001, her estranged uncle arrives on her doorstep, offering access to a heritage that Sam might want after all. As she grows more interested in exploring that heritage, and getting to know the people connected to it, Sam runs into conflict with those already in her life who prefer things as they are.
Set in New Jersey in the months immediately following 9/11, Shine, Coconut Moon provides insight not only into the conflict between heritage and home experienced by the children of immigrants, but also into the experiences of those who looked, to ignorant and frightened eyes, too much like the people responsible for the recent attack. The gradual revelation of the events that led to Sam’s mother’s decision to avoid her heritage and Sam’s stubborn investigation into what she’s been missing—from visiting a Sikh temple and making friends with the Indian girls at school to seeking out her grandparents—is engaging, while the setting reminds the reader just how much was changed by 9/11.
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