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American as Paneer Pie

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An Indian-American girl who struggles to navigate her two very different lives: the one at home, where she can be herself, and the one at school, where she is teased for her culture. When a racist incident rocks her small town, she must decide to continue to remain silent or find her voice.


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An Indian-American girl who struggles to navigate her two very different lives: the one at home, where she can be herself, and the one at school, where she is teased for her culture. When a racist incident rocks her small town, she must decide to continue to remain silent or find her voice.

30 review for American as Paneer Pie

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tani

    Did someone say Paneer?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wendi Lee

    Lekha was an Indian-American living in a small town an hour away from Detroit. She was used to fielding racist comments from her classmates and microaggressions from teachers, and instead of confronting them, Lekha has ignored them and tried not to attract attention. So when Avantika moves to town and started challenging the casual racism, Lekha feels both conflicted and exposed, yet also happy to have someone else who can share her love of Bollywood movies and Indian food. More casual racism po Lekha was an Indian-American living in a small town an hour away from Detroit. She was used to fielding racist comments from her classmates and microaggressions from teachers, and instead of confronting them, Lekha has ignored them and tried not to attract attention. So when Avantika moves to town and started challenging the casual racism, Lekha feels both conflicted and exposed, yet also happy to have someone else who can share her love of Bollywood movies and Indian food. More casual racism pops up throughout town as a local politician runs a senatorial campaign on an eerily real-life "us versus them" platform. And Lekha also qualifies for a competitive swim team, whose team members quickly urge her to be more "American" and ditch Avantika. I'm East-Asian, not South Asian, but so much of what happens to Lekha and her family resonated with me. I admit to acting just like Lekha's mom on occasion, trying desperately just to keep her family safe in a world that seems increasingly hostile and dangerous. Yes, I've used curbside groceries for the reason her mom did! Lekha's path to speaking her truth was monumental, filled with kindness, and so very brave. I feel that this is an important book, and I will definitely buy a copy for my children. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kristin Crouch

    Thank you to Simon and Schuster Ed/Library team for sharing American As Paneer Pie with Collabookation. Lekha has been the only Indian kid in her Michigan suburb for her entire life. Which means that for her entire school career, she's been called Dot, asked why she smells, and been outcasted/dismissed by most classmates. Except for her best friend and next door neighbor, Noah, Lekha is on her own to survive the mistreatment from her peers. Luckily she has a supportive mom and dad, and some frie Thank you to Simon and Schuster Ed/Library team for sharing American As Paneer Pie with Collabookation. Lekha has been the only Indian kid in her Michigan suburb for her entire life. Which means that for her entire school career, she's been called Dot, asked why she smells, and been outcasted/dismissed by most classmates. Except for her best friend and next door neighbor, Noah, Lekha is on her own to survive the mistreatment from her peers. Luckily she has a supportive mom and dad, and some friends in nearby Detroit who share her Indian culture. Enter a new neighbor, Avantika, who is also Indian. But on her first day of school, Avantika couldn't be more different in handling rude classmates - she stands up to them. Just as Lekha begins to appreicate her new friend and how comforting it is to have someone who understands everything she's going through, Lekha makes the ultra competitive swim team. Lekha soon has to figure out if she wants to fit in with her team or risk being attached to Avantika by way of their background. This entire story is set against the backdrop of a contentious statewide election in which the slogan of the winning candidate is "Don't Like It? Leave." I love books that are able to balance the macro environment with the micro in an adolescent's life, and this book is a perfect example. The microagressions Lehka has handled with grace her entire academic life are now seeping into the life of her family and the public. She has to see bumper stickers on classmates' parents' cars. She has to walk by signs on neighbors' lawns. And she has to decide when and how she is going to stand up against the bitterness and hate that begins to invade her entire life. American As Paneer Pie could be the story of my upstate NY town - we had one Indian boy who transferred out of our schools before he hit middle school. We had one African American boy who was known as "Black Tony." I think there may be readers who think that the world Kelkar presents is unrealistic, but I beg (literally begggg) of them to not dismiss this book. As much as we all would love to think we've made gains in areas of diversity, it harms our students to not continue the work of understanding and appreciating the many different facets of humanity in our schools, while naming/acknowledging how microaggressions can wear on one's soul. I thank Supriya Kelkar for writing this book, and I can't wait to offer it to my students. Also, might have to order some Indian takeout when I booktalk this one! As the title might suggest, food is a strong theme throughout. Thankfully, recipes are included. Highly recommended for students in grade 5 and up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rajiv

    [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] I always love reading a good story that focuses on tolerance and acceptance towards anyone different from us. American as Paneer Pie shows the issues some Indian-Americans feel from being uncomfortable in their own skin, even if they are born there. The author did a wonderful job with this book. She wrote all the characters in a delightful way. I enjoyed Lekha as the main character and could relate to her. Even as an adult, w [Blog]::[Youtube]::[Twitter]::[Instagram]::[Pinterest]::[Bloglovin] I always love reading a good story that focuses on tolerance and acceptance towards anyone different from us. American as Paneer Pie shows the issues some Indian-Americans feel from being uncomfortable in their own skin, even if they are born there. The author did a wonderful job with this book. She wrote all the characters in a delightful way. I enjoyed Lekha as the main character and could relate to her. Even as an adult, we sometimes don’t have the courage to stand up for what is right. Moreover, the story highlights that even though we don’t have to completely step out of bubble, just a small step could start a ripple effect in the right direction. It shows how we need to embrace our identity and not let others bully us. Moreover, as an Indian, I loved all the Indian references about the food, cultures and traditions. However, my only criticism is that I felt the plethora of Indian references might throw off few readers not accustomed to the culture. Some of the terms did not have a glossary or description, and while I understood and enjoyed it, I feel it would have confused others. Also, even though I understand why the mother was paranoid for her family, I didn’t understand how she suddenly changed her mind. Moreover, I felt like Avantika was a very interesting character, but we don’t see much of her. Apart from that, I really enjoyed reading this story. I think the author has a wonderful talent for showcasing American Indian characters, and look forward to reading some of her other works.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Neha Thakkar

    This book spoke to me as a first generation Indian American. With heart, humor, and hope Lekha learns how to balance her home self and her school self, along with learning how to speak out against racism in her community, and then balancing old (quiet) and new (speaks up) Lekha. Being a first generation child is difficult no matter what, as you are always seesawing between the 2 cultures, and seemingly never “enough” of either. I love how this story shed light on what it feels like, how it’s not This book spoke to me as a first generation Indian American. With heart, humor, and hope Lekha learns how to balance her home self and her school self, along with learning how to speak out against racism in her community, and then balancing old (quiet) and new (speaks up) Lekha. Being a first generation child is difficult no matter what, as you are always seesawing between the 2 cultures, and seemingly never “enough” of either. I love how this story shed light on what it feels like, how it’s not always easy to speak up and how to be you anyways. Also loved the bindis, shiny things, Bollywood references, and foods mentioned (I really want bhel and paneer now)!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Joe Eyres

    What a fabulous and timely book! I love the whole story, the characters, and especially the word play! The descriptions were amazing- I was constantly hungry while reading this book! I renewed my love of Indian music and gained knowledge of dance, clothing, holidays, and more culture. The overall theme of finding your voice and standing up for yourself mixed well with the topic of xenophobia and nationalism in politics. I gained more knowledge and will constantly improve my teaching because of t What a fabulous and timely book! I love the whole story, the characters, and especially the word play! The descriptions were amazing- I was constantly hungry while reading this book! I renewed my love of Indian music and gained knowledge of dance, clothing, holidays, and more culture. The overall theme of finding your voice and standing up for yourself mixed well with the topic of xenophobia and nationalism in politics. I gained more knowledge and will constantly improve my teaching because of this book. If you liked Save Me a Seat, Amina's Voice, or Ban This Book, you should love this one too!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Penny

    Thanks to School Library Journal for the ARC! Brava to the author and the main character, Lehka. So refreshing and so genuine. Definitely planning to purchase for my library. My only request would be that the Indian foods, clothing, and other terms were more explained or had a glossary. I sometimes felt as 'out of it' as I'm sure an immigrant feels here; perhaps, there was a reason for not having one?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    Eleven-year-old Lekha Divekar may be a first generation Indian American, but she couldn't be prouder of her Indian heritage, culture, and her Hindu faith. And there's nothing Lekha enjoys more than a good Bollywood movie, some delicious Indian food, and playing raas at home with her best friend Noah. But these enjoyments belong only to the at-home Lekha. At-school Lekha is a different story. As the only Desi* in her school in Oakridge, Michigan, Lekha tries her hardest to fit in and not be notic Eleven-year-old Lekha Divekar may be a first generation Indian American, but she couldn't be prouder of her Indian heritage, culture, and her Hindu faith. And there's nothing Lekha enjoys more than a good Bollywood movie, some delicious Indian food, and playing raas at home with her best friend Noah. But these enjoyments belong only to the at-home Lekha. At-school Lekha is a different story. As the only Desi* in her school in Oakridge, Michigan, Lekha tries her hardest to fit in and not be noticed. But that's kind of hard when she has a dark-brown birthmark in the spot on her forehead where a bindi would normally go. This earns her the unwanted nickname Dot by a white boy named Liam, who seems to have it out for her. Each time she passes him, he asks "What reeks, Dot?" in a sneering, condescending way and insinuating that Indians smell and adding to her feelings self-consciousness. Is it the wonderful Bengali food her mother makes and that she enjoys so much, or the coconut oil she uses in her hair, or none of this and just plain racism? she wondered. His mocking only increases when Lekha makes the school swim team and Liam doesn't, making fun of her for not shaving her legs:"She needs a lawn mower." to the delight of his friends. And how does Lekha deal with these insults and other microagressions, like students and teachers always mispronouncing her name and not correcting them? "I knew exactly how loud my voice would be when facing a bully. It would be totally silent." When a new girl moves in across the street, Lekha couldn't be happier. At last, a Desi friend at school and someone who would soon get what it is like to have two lives, an Indian life at home and an American life at school. But Avantika Savarkar may be fob (fresh off the boat), but she is also a proud Indian and doesn't care who knows it. And she is not afraid to stand up to Liam and his racist bullying. Lekha is amazed at this brave girl who speaks accented English and brings homemade Indian food for lunch, but she still wishes to just fit in and not be noticed. When a white candidate runs for Congress on an anti-immigrant platform with the slogan "DON'T LIKE IT? LEAVE, Lekha refuses to even think about it, unlike her friend Noah. Noah has always been annoyed that Lekha refuses to speak up when she's make fun of. Even after a racist incident is directed at her family over the Christmas holidays happens, Lekha keeps her mouth shut about it and is only angry that Noah writes about it and it is published in the school paper for everyone to read. When a violent hate crime impacts her family and people she loves, will it be enough to get Lekha to finally find her voice to speak out against the racism she and her family face day after day and stand up for the culture she loves so much? I found American as Paneer Pie to be an interesting novel and Lekha a very complex, flawed character as she grows and changes over the course of sixth grade. She is the first person narrator and while she can sound a little whiny and self-pitying at times, readers (myself included) need to remember, racism and xenophobia aren't occasional incidents in her life. It's also the ongoing day-to-day barrage of microaggressions, like not bothering to learn how to pronounce her name, comments about smelly Indian food, a pushy white swim teammate named Aidy insisting they lost a match because Lekha didn't shave her legs, even though it was Aidy's poor performance that caused the loss. While this is a story that nicely highlights Lekha's journey toward discovering the power of her own voice, Kelkar has included a richly detailed picture of her Indian family's life, including lots of interesting references to their culture, traditions, and, of course, food. One thing that did bother me was that there is no glossary for the many Indian reference that are probably not going to be familiar to many readers. If you are looking for a thought-provoking, accessible novel that presents difficult but timely themes in an age appropriate way, then look no further than American as Paneer Pie. A recipe for Paneer Pie is included. This book is recommended for readers age 9+ This book was an ARC provided by the publisher, Aladdin, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

  9. 5 out of 5

    Reading_ Tam_ Ishly

    💫One of the best middle grade books dealing with racism, discrimination, bullying, attacks on immigrants, identity, friendship and family dynamics, multicultural background; Indian cinema, food, festivals and culture I really love how the author made the voices of these young characters really relatable which develop into something which would echo to wherever and whoever it reaches to to echo back the same and make whoever reads this book think twice on the themes this book handles. This is incre 💫One of the best middle grade books dealing with racism, discrimination, bullying, attacks on immigrants, identity, friendship and family dynamics, multicultural background; Indian cinema, food, festivals and culture I really love how the author made the voices of these young characters really relatable which develop into something which would echo to wherever and whoever it reaches to to echo back the same and make whoever reads this book think twice on the themes this book handles. This is incredibly well-done and I was quite surprised! The cover and the title are awesome but they make the book look as some other middle grade books which deal with the kid's life in general but dang, this book turned out to be more serious yet told in a very easy and urgent manner that it's just impossible to put down this book once I started it. I picked up this book randomly for the #discoveringindiareadathon that has been going on at Instagram this month (August 2020) and so I picked up this book because of the author's Indian name. (Sometimes I love me for picking up random books which turn into my all-time favorites. This moment needs a celebration with a cup of tea ☕ Keep steaming I say!) I liked how the story developed. The first part deals with the character introductions which is swift and oh-so-easy to get into but yes, each character is distinct and quite alive and outspoken. I love the constant presence plus the contribution of the adult characters in the character as well as the plot development. Lekha, the main character, is quite the character you would want to read in a contemporary fiction. She was introduced as someone trying so hard to fit in (of course, who wouldn't when you're the only one different in the whole school in terms of skin colour and the food you eat everyday at school which is quite different from what everyone else eats there?) She gets to face constant criticism, bullying and questions (not necessarily asked because they wanted to know actual answers). Avantika, another character of her same age, gets shifted there and starts attending the same school. The character difference between these two characters was quite fascinating. Avantika is proud of her roots, her identity and her culture. She's an amazing character. (Author, I wanted more of this character in the book. You just muted her suddenly it seems.) Noah, bff of Lekha, who's quite funny and the ever sunshine positive being! He's cute but yes, I wanted more of this character as well towards the ending. Character development is really good. The politics part needed more depth but I am not complaining as it is what as it is for a middle grade fiction. At least it tried to tell what bad politics look and sound like. I like the ending. It's just beautiful. And all that food talk!!!! I was craving for all those sweets and the Gujarati dishes 😵 And yes, the book has the actual recipe for the Paneer pie! Damn ☺️ *Highlight: The Bollywood ghost in me came alive while reading this book!!! Govinda! Sridevi! Old Hindi Classic movies! I am so happy I am familiar with all these references and I had such a fun time there! One of the best reads indeed!🖤

  10. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    This book was eye-opening in a lot of ways. The themes that permeate the book are so relevant to the world today. The story revolves around Lekha Divekar, a young Indian American girl who wants so badly to belong with her classmates. Her parents are immigrants from India and have kept many of their traditions. Lekha enjoys many of these traditions but she dislikes having to always answer questions about her traditions and beliefs. She's also been bullied and stereotyped by those around her. She This book was eye-opening in a lot of ways. The themes that permeate the book are so relevant to the world today. The story revolves around Lekha Divekar, a young Indian American girl who wants so badly to belong with her classmates. Her parents are immigrants from India and have kept many of their traditions. Lekha enjoys many of these traditions but she dislikes having to always answer questions about her traditions and beliefs. She's also been bullied and stereotyped by those around her. She does her best to quietly slip through life, hoping against hope that someday she'll feel like she fits in. When a new girl moves into the neighborhood, Lekha is excited to discover that she is no longer the only Desi in the area. But Avantika is much less willing than Lekha to go with the status quo and Lekha struggles to be welcoming while not disturbing the waters too much. While Lekha struggles with her home and school lives, a local election brings issues of immigration blaming out into the open and when Lekha's family experiences acts of hate, Lekha must face her own fears. Luckily for her she has some great friends to help her out, if she's willing to step forward and accept their help. Themes related to microaggressions, cultural misunderstandings, intolerance, as well as friendship, standing up for oneself, and finding one's place in the world seep through the story in important ways. The details related to Lekha's Desi heritage including language, holiday celebrations, religious beliefs, and physical characteristics are beautifully integrated into the story. Not only did I get a glimpse into what it's like to be a Desi in America, but what it's like to be caught between two cultures while not feeling wholly comfortable in either. This title is an excellent example of what the We Need Diverse Books movement is all about, giving young readers a book that can be either a window or a mirror. An excellent contribution to the growing number of diverse titles available for middle grade readers.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Anjana

    I am not a teenage girl, and I was not born in a country where my forefathers (and mothers) could not trace they ancestry back to, but there was something so relatable about this book that I read it in almost one stretch, wanting to see it all the way through. The one bias I might have had is that I spoke a different language at home than the city I lived in throughout my schooling(which was entirely in English). I was so shy that I refused to make mistakes enough to speak the local language and I am not a teenage girl, and I was not born in a country where my forefathers (and mothers) could not trace they ancestry back to, but there was something so relatable about this book that I read it in almost one stretch, wanting to see it all the way through. The one bias I might have had is that I spoke a different language at home than the city I lived in throughout my schooling(which was entirely in English). I was so shy that I refused to make mistakes enough to speak the local language and for someone outside of India it would be hard to imagine the impact that can have on one’s social life even in the simplest terms. By the time I school was ending, I found a larger crowd of people who accepted (however grudgingly) that I probably would not reply in any other language than English. All of this endeared Lekha to me because in some ways, in my own little world, I was her. It is not easy to be comfortable in your own skin, and Lekha learns the hard way. This is an ideal book for those families who do not wholly conform to the western pattern. I loved the fact that the idea of her maintaining her families tradition of being vegetarian (because she believes in the logic of it) and although she cringes at having to explain it to her fellow Americans. The family dynamic was soothing and loving while having a strict enough backbone. It is not a big book, so I will only mention one more thing with regards to the storyline. Lekha is a first-generation American, born in the US but completely ‘Desi’ at home. She encounters, for the first time, a girl from the very same family background as her but is comfortable about it and her family has just moved to their corner of the US. It was simply written, with enough explanations to those who are not familiar with some of the words used, there is a lot of foody descriptions that had my stomach rumbling. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes reading books aimed at a middle-grade audience or books about being different. I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers. The review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Anjali

    I have so many words for this book. Neither of the two protagonists' experience mirrors my own childhood growing up Indian-American in a very white world. However, that did not stop me from seeing parts of my experience in this book. We often overlook how important belonging and significance are in the human experience. Lehka's account of not feeling belonging in her school or even completely feeling belonging with her Indian friends was extremely familiar to me. The way she tries to make herself I have so many words for this book. Neither of the two protagonists' experience mirrors my own childhood growing up Indian-American in a very white world. However, that did not stop me from seeing parts of my experience in this book. We often overlook how important belonging and significance are in the human experience. Lehka's account of not feeling belonging in her school or even completely feeling belonging with her Indian friends was extremely familiar to me. The way she tries to make herself invisible at school - not voicing an opinion, not correcting people when they make mistakes with her name - those were so familiar to me as well. Avantika knows belonging from having lived in India, but struggles with the colorism she has experienced all her life. Both girls teach the other about belonging to yourself - which is a really hard concept to embrace as an adolescent - and as an adult. I so appreciate that this story is out there, and want to give the book to every middle grader I know. We all struggle with belonging and significance at some point in our lives, some more than others - having Lehka's story to reflect upon might make it easier for a young reader to understand.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie Grover

    “The world is still full of more good people than bad.” Lekha is the only Indian American kid in her town and her life is hard. But, when a Desi girl moves in next door she thinks things will get easier. To Lekha’s surprise, the new girl has a lot to teach her, including standing up for what is right. I learned so much about the Hindi culture. “This is what happens when hate goes unchecked.” Bullying, friendship, racism, culture. This is a window book that I will recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    I stayed up way past my bed time to finish this one and then spent a bunch of time today urging people to read AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE. I loved everything about this book. The writing, the very realistic characters, the plot. And this book is so timely. If you are looking for a book that examines racism, microagressions, politics, complicity but does so in the context of an engaging story, pick this one up for you AND your kids.

  15. 4 out of 5

    April

    Due to this book, I have been cooking a lot more Indian food lately! The main character is the child of immigrants, and she shows what it is like to be Indian-American preteen who dances with bollywood at home, but hides her bindi birthmark at school. Adorable, I enjoyed every page.

  16. 5 out of 5

    delph ✨

    Full review on my blog : here An e-ARC was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the words to express what I think about this book but know that I totally loved it. The premise seems simple: a young indian-american girl in a really white town, juggling between her indian heritage and the image she shows at school, an image she has because she doesn’t want the white kids to pick at her. Full review on my blog : here An e-ARC was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange of an honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the words to express what I think about this book but know that I totally loved it. The premise seems simple: a young indian-american girl in a really white town, juggling between her indian heritage and the image she shows at school, an image she has because she doesn’t want the white kids to pick at her. But American as Paneer Pie is so much more than that and I wish everybody out there would pick it up just because I tell you it’s an amazing book. I believe Supriya Kelkar wrote the perfect story to tell in a political and social context like ours. It’s a story about standing up against hate, against racism. But it’s also a love story to all the children who feel like they don’t fit because they’re parents are immigrant. It’s a love story to tell you that you can embrace your culture in a predominant white country and that you shouldn’t feel ashamed for it. Diversity tag: indian american main character, indian american side characters, #ownvoices, asian american author Trigger warnings/content warnings: racism, racist micro-agression, hate crime, violence

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ms Threlkeld

    Uplifting and thought-provoking story of friendship, acceptance, and racism.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Lehka loves being on the swim team and hanging out with neighbor and friend Noah in her town an hour from Detroit, but she occasionally wishes she weren't the only Desi girl in her school. When new neighbors move in and have a girl her age AND have just come from India, Lehka doesn't quite know what to think. There are a lot of things she has in common with Avantika, but since her new neighbor is a fob (fresh of the boat), she doesn't understand that there are som E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Lehka loves being on the swim team and hanging out with neighbor and friend Noah in her town an hour from Detroit, but she occasionally wishes she weren't the only Desi girl in her school. When new neighbors move in and have a girl her age AND have just come from India, Lehka doesn't quite know what to think. There are a lot of things she has in common with Avantika, but since her new neighbor is a fob (fresh of the boat), she doesn't understand that there are some things you just don't do-- let the other girls know you use coconut oil on your hair, don't bring "smelly" Indian food for lunch, and try to fly beneath the haters' radar instead of challenging them. Things seem to work out for Avantika, but Lehka struggles. She doesn't want to shave her legs even though her swim teammates are pressuring her, but she also doesn't feel at home with her Indian friends in the city. She loves celebrating Hindu holidays with her family and the always understanding Noah, but feels awkward when she is with friends and has to make sure the snacks are gelatin-free because her family is vegetarian. She puts up with constant, daily insults from boys in her class, but when there is a racist incident in her neighborhood and a candidate who is hostile to immigrants is elected, Lehka reexamines her relationships and her level of activism in order to try to make things right for herself and her family. Strengths: This had lots of great details about Lehka's family dynamics and culture. It was interesting that while her family was unique in their town, they did have access to a larger Indian community in Detroit. Her complicated feelings about Avantika are so typically middle school that it was painful to read about-- but SO true! Weaknesses: I wish that we didn't see the kind of pervasive racism Lehka experiences, but hopefully books like this will make readers aware and help to end it. What I really think: This author's Ahimsa has done well for historical fiction in my library, and American as Paneer Pie is a great choice for students who like realistic fiction, especially those who enjoyed other books with culturally connected characters like Ramee's A Good Kind of Trouble, Bajaj's Count Me In, and Pancholy's The Best at It.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate Waggoner

    Thank you to #NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for allowing me to read a digital ARC of American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar. This beautifully written and thought-provoking middle grades novel will be releases June 1, 2020. All opinions are my own. Lekha Divekar is the only Indian American kid in her small town of Oakridge, Michigan. She feels as if two versions of herself exist: Home Lekha and School Lekha. At home she loves eating Indian food, watching Bollywood movie Thank you to #NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for allowing me to read a digital ARC of American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar. This beautifully written and thought-provoking middle grades novel will be releases June 1, 2020. All opinions are my own. Lekha Divekar is the only Indian American kid in her small town of Oakridge, Michigan. She feels as if two versions of herself exist: Home Lekha and School Lekha. At home she loves eating Indian food, watching Bollywood movies, and celebrating Indian holidays. At school, though, things are different. Her classmates mock her birthmark, a small dot in the center of her head resembling a bindi, and make fun of her for being Indian. Then a new family, from India, with a daughter Lekha's age, move in across the street. Lekha is excited to have a Desi friend, someone who will get it. However, she soon realizes that Avantika, her new friend/neighbor, is new to America and not as like her as she thought she would be. Unlike Lekha, Avantika doesn't take the bullying at school lying down. She talks back and stands up for herself and Lekha. After a racist incident shocks Lekha's family and community, she realizes that she has to decide to either continue to remains silent in the face of racism and bullying or to find her voice and stand up for herself, her family, her friends, and her culture. There is so much to love about this middle grades book. First, Lekha's voice is honest, pure, and raw. Her struggles are real as she navigates the prejudices of her small town and learns the power of her own voice. Lekha's story brings to light the horrible reality that many Americans face on a daily basis: racism and xenophobia. Many middle grade readers are not familiar with this topic and this novel is a great way to introduce it and start discussions. While not all middle grade readers will be able to relate to the fear and anxiety connected to xenophobia, many will be able to connect to Lekha's struggles to fit in at school. Some might even see themselves in other characters, like Liam or Aidy, and realize something about themselves and how they treat others. I love that though this book is about a serious topic, it is approached with humor and heart. The characters and relationships are real and relatable. I love how the title plays into the novel and that the author includes a recipe for paneer pie. Overall, I think this is an accessible, well-written, and engaging middle grade novel that I can't wait to add to my classroom library. I think it's perfect for those who loved Amina's Voice or Other Words for Home.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 11-year-old Lekha is the only Indian kid in her school, and one of the few people of color in her small town in Michigan, and has been faced with acts of racism, large and small, her entire life. So far, she hasn't managed to speak up for herself, but the new school year - in which Lekha wins a coveted spot on a swim team and Avantika, another Indian girl, moves to Lekha's neighborhood - might prove to be differe I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 11-year-old Lekha is the only Indian kid in her school, and one of the few people of color in her small town in Michigan, and has been faced with acts of racism, large and small, her entire life. So far, she hasn't managed to speak up for herself, but the new school year - in which Lekha wins a coveted spot on a swim team and Avantika, another Indian girl, moves to Lekha's neighborhood - might prove to be different... This was an interesting one. I absolutely loved how it dealt with various intricacies of discrimination. Sure, there's the obvious school bully and the conservative politician who ignores conversation in favor of talking points, but there's also the well-meaning teacher who still embarrasses you, the authority figure who can't be bothered to pronounce your name correctly, or the best friend who you wish would realize you want him to stand up for you. The book does such a good job of showing how even well-meaning interactions can be hurtful (intent, after all, isn't magic), how multiple microaggressions can build up to be just as painful as one big thing, how political figures' views can embolden people in everyday interactions, and how, sadly, even standing up for yourself often won't change much (but it might change something, and maybe that's good enough) and there aren't any quick answers to dealing with deep-seated prejudice. The amount of nuance shown in tackling all these issues was beyond what I was expecting and I was really impressed by it. That said, I still primarily care about storytelling in a book, and this is where "American as Paneer Pie" suffered somewhat. Specifically... oh, Lekha. Look, I'm genre-savvy enough that I knew where this was going. The young protagonist needs to face both external and, more importantly, internal prejudice in order to grow as a person and find her voice. I get it. And I get that the best characters are flawed ones. But somehow a book needs to make me want to root for them in spite of (even because of?) their flaws, and Lekha... just didn't inspire that feeling in me. I can't really put my finger on why it is or what could have made it better, but I found her unlikeable enough that I only wished her well out of a sense of duty rather than really caring about what happens in the end. More often than not, I found myself wishing I were reading about Avantika, who I kept wanting to know more about. Also, can I please have all the Indian food right now? Every dish mentioned here sounded amazing and I want all of them.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tonja Drecker

    Hitting on these such as racism, hate crimes and bullying, this read gets to the heart and awakens awareness. Lekha's family is the only one of India-American heritage in their small town, and despite practicing her culture within her family, she does the best to hide it in school. If she didn't, she's sure she'd be laughed at and teased even more. When another family just like hers moves in across the street, she's excited to finally have someone who is just like her. And although she does have Hitting on these such as racism, hate crimes and bullying, this read gets to the heart and awakens awareness. Lekha's family is the only one of India-American heritage in their small town, and despite practicing her culture within her family, she does the best to hide it in school. If she didn't, she's sure she'd be laughed at and teased even more. When another family just like hers moves in across the street, she's excited to finally have someone who is just like her. And although she does have a lot of similarities with the girl, they have some differences, too. Not only do things grow more uncomfortable in school, but in the town as well. When a hate crime hits the town, Lekha is forced to re-evaluate her views. Readers who love discovering other cultures and enjoy realistic, middle grade drama are going to sink into this one and get lost in the pages. Lekha is hard not to like. She's very caring, loves her family and friends, and is, in general, a happy girl. But she has her problems, too. Conflict is something she tries to avoid at every turn, and this ends up causing more trouble than one might first suspect. Her desire to fit in is understandable and the decisions she makes to simply feel included are ones readers will sympathize with. She's a very normal girl facing issues many kids her age group recognize, but this tale also celebrates friendship and makes it clear that just because a few might behave horribly, not everyone is that way. The author does a lovely job at bringing the culture to life. The first chapter hit a little harder with it than I personally would have liked, but it smooths out quickly as the story gets going. Lekha faces quite a bit of ridicule, and the author brings this across in an age appropriate manner. Readers will recognize the issues and maybe, learn something along the way. I received an ARC and enjoyed how well the author addressed the themes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    I see this newly published book as a more middle grade version of Love, Hate & Other Filters with some of topics covered included discrimination that leads to property damage and the subsequent happenings from that. Though obviously without a significant romance like Love, I value that this was about friendship as middle grade tends to lean toward and that's the beauty of the book. Lehka is torn between her swim team friendships and bonding and her school/neighborhood friends plus the new desi n I see this newly published book as a more middle grade version of Love, Hate & Other Filters with some of topics covered included discrimination that leads to property damage and the subsequent happenings from that. Though obviously without a significant romance like Love, I value that this was about friendship as middle grade tends to lean toward and that's the beauty of the book. Lehka is torn between her swim team friendships and bonding and her school/neighborhood friends plus the new desi neighbor when Lehka's family has been the only Indian American family in their Michigan area. Readers that are not Indian-American learn about Diwali and food culture which is informational but "sees" the Indian American kids who are always stressed about what they smell like when they come from home, their food in the cafeteria, and being the "other". Specifically, I liked the inclusion of Diwali not being recognized as a school holiday so the sacrifices Lehka makes to balance the celebration with her obligations and (as an educator) that we must continue to be better about recognizes the celebrations of all cultures and religions. Another topic if particular interest was whose right it is to share information. When her friend Noah uses the vandalism to discussion xenophobia, he took the power and decision-making away from Lehka which reminds me of This Time Will Be Different. Then the powerful statement of everyone's America toward the end by Lehka who is finding her voice even when she made mistakes in friendship. It's heartwarming and thoughtful.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amruta

    This book was touted by many book lists, so I immediately reserved it at my local library. Was the first one to get it too! And I have to say, I loved it from the go! So well-written, fluid, un-pretentious, funny at times and quite emotional at others! Also, full props for the unapologetic usage of Marathi words and expressions! It was refreshing and very apt! The book is about a 10 year old girl named Lekha Divekar, who lives in a small white-majority town an hour from Metro Detroit, and her str This book was touted by many book lists, so I immediately reserved it at my local library. Was the first one to get it too! And I have to say, I loved it from the go! So well-written, fluid, un-pretentious, funny at times and quite emotional at others! Also, full props for the unapologetic usage of Marathi words and expressions! It was refreshing and very apt! The book is about a 10 year old girl named Lekha Divekar, who lives in a small white-majority town an hour from Metro Detroit, and her struggles with fitting in, belonging, and being happy. Over the course of the book, she becomes a part of the swim team, grudgingly befriends a fresh off the boat Indian girl, and in general navigates between her hopes and dreams and the xenophobia and political climate of the country. She is ably supported by her very white and very righteous and amazing neighbor/schoolmate Noah (his inclusion was very important to paint an impartial picture of the landscape), and her parents. The story drove me to tears a couple of times, and filled me with a sense of pride in a couple of situations. Loved the twists and turns, and also how even the strongest of characters were given a weaker side/ soft spot, to show that even the perfect armor has chinks and how we all can help each other find ourselves and get stronger, not matter how strong or weak we ourselves feel. My favorite one was Avantika and her dependence on Fair and "Dainty". Because however brilliant and independent and smart Indian girls might be, they are still expected to be of a lighter skin tone! Loved that the author brought this to fore. It is extremely important for the Indian kids of today to see a protagonist like them, and this book does a stellar job of representing them without being caricature-like or other-worldly. It is very real! Of course there's going to be a few issues here and there, for e.g., as a native Marathi speaker, I can't imagine any Marathi family would name their dog Ram; but these are very minor issues. This is a book that every Indian tween (and their parents should read)! Also Tandoori Paneer Pizza totally rocks! :D

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Arca

    Friends. Every classroom needs this book. We have not had this book yet and we NEED this book. I loved the many thoughtful moves in this book. I loved the family in this book (and the nuanced/important/difficult conversations they had!). The message is spot on for any age but especially middle grade/ middle school. It's just spot on. It was really hard to read at times (often) but it's because it is honest and real and depicting levels of oppression and society that hurt. They need to hurt. I ha Friends. Every classroom needs this book. We have not had this book yet and we NEED this book. I loved the many thoughtful moves in this book. I loved the family in this book (and the nuanced/important/difficult conversations they had!). The message is spot on for any age but especially middle grade/ middle school. It's just spot on. It was really hard to read at times (often) but it's because it is honest and real and depicting levels of oppression and society that hurt. They need to hurt. I happened to especially adore some of the side characters most, and the conversations that they allowed the author to bring into the story. What does friendship that holds space for everyone look like? What does it look like to speak back to hate based on who you are/ the situation? It's complicated! To stand up for yourself (and be safe?!) to be an ally? To apologize?. To be a POC/ POC family in a particularly hate-spewing political time? What does it look like to grow together? I will warn you that if you like food (especially Indian food) then WOW you should not read this while hungry because there are (properly) a ton of food references that made me so hungry. Well I had both food envy and outfit envy, to be honest. Anyways. You need this book. Your classroom needs this book. This is the all class read aloud you've been looking for!! Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I wanted this so badly and it not only did not disappoint but it made me so grateful/excited for where authors are taking middle grade lit!

  25. 4 out of 5

    The Book Chief

    Wanting to fit in is a fundamental human desire. It might have stemmed from centuries ago when living harmoniously in a pack was essential for survival. Whatever be the genesis, most of us spend significant time and energy (even money) trying to blend in and be accepted as part of the larger community. Heck, there’s even a proverb around fitting in- When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But what happens when you belong to two diverse communities and hence have two identities to straddle? 11-year old Wanting to fit in is a fundamental human desire. It might have stemmed from centuries ago when living harmoniously in a pack was essential for survival. Whatever be the genesis, most of us spend significant time and energy (even money) trying to blend in and be accepted as part of the larger community. Heck, there’s even a proverb around fitting in- When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But what happens when you belong to two diverse communities and hence have two identities to straddle? 11-year old Lekha Divekar has been born and raised in the quiet town of Oakridge, an hour’s drive from Detroit, USA. Unlike big-city Detroit with its large and vibrant Indian community, Oakridge is tiny and mostly white. Lekha has faced questions and teasing all her life. Being timid and hating confrontation, she cannot shoot down the questions and bullying and assert that she is as American as her classmates. So when a new family moves across the street from the Divekars, FROM INDIA, Lekha is both happy and apprehensive. She hopes that their daughter Avantika (who is Lekha’s age) can be the much-longed-for girl friend with whom Lekha can be truly herself, but is also scared that the whole school will conveniently slot the two girls together irrespective of whether they like each other or not, and she will be forever Indian Lekha who is never fully accepted as American. A heartfelt and thought-provoking MG read about identity, fitting in and friendship. Made me really mull over these themes, so relevant in the current scenario where the world is getting polarised. Detailed review on my book review blog at: https://www.facebook.com/855005157962...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Beth Mendelsohn

    Thank you to Edelweiss and SLJ for this ARC. All opinions are my own. Lekha, an 11-year-old Indian-American girl, lives in a suburb of Detroit where she is the only Desi in town. She is tired of the questions: Where is your dot? What’s that smell? Where are you really from? Lekha usually ignores these questions and often commiserates with her neighbor and best friend, Noah, that is, until a new neighbor moves in. It’s another Desi family with a daughter the same age as Lekha and Noah. Lekha is ve Thank you to Edelweiss and SLJ for this ARC. All opinions are my own. Lekha, an 11-year-old Indian-American girl, lives in a suburb of Detroit where she is the only Desi in town. She is tired of the questions: Where is your dot? What’s that smell? Where are you really from? Lekha usually ignores these questions and often commiserates with her neighbor and best friend, Noah, that is, until a new neighbor moves in. It’s another Desi family with a daughter the same age as Lekha and Noah. Lekha is very excited until she realizes Avantika has an accent. Lekha wants to fit in not stand out and Avantika does not cower from the bullies. In the winter, there is a serious racist incident – Lekha’s garage is spray painted “GO BACK TO YOUR OWN COUNTRY!” This rocks Lekha and her family to their core. Will Lekha find her voice and stand up to hate? This is a great middle grade realistic fiction book which fortunately/unfortunately is very topical today. It is common for middle schoolers to have trouble figuring out who they are. Lekha has a particularly difficult time being the only Desi until Avantika moves in. Lekha has to reconcile Home Lekha with School Lekha, the different personality traits she shows in different places. I would highly recommend this book for grade 5 and up. #AmericanAsPaneerPie #Edelweiss

  27. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    This YA ARC was suggested as to-read by a couple of friends who are school librarians (middle and elementary), and their notes caught my eye as well. A quicker read, touching in on important topics of immigration, fitting in, and prejudice, American as Paneer Pie should become a must-read in middle grade classrooms (putting on my former teacher hat too). In American as Paneer Pie, Lekha is used to being the only Indian American kid in her school, in a suburb an hour or two away from the larger Ind This YA ARC was suggested as to-read by a couple of friends who are school librarians (middle and elementary), and their notes caught my eye as well. A quicker read, touching in on important topics of immigration, fitting in, and prejudice, American as Paneer Pie should become a must-read in middle grade classrooms (putting on my former teacher hat too). In American as Paneer Pie, Lekha is used to being the only Indian American kid in her school, in a suburb an hour or two away from the larger Indian American community in Detroit. As she struggles through daily micro aggressions, her only ally is her friend Noah, until another Indian family moves across the street. Avantika has no interest in putting up with her fellow classmates' attitudes and stands up for herself when harassed. After a racist event targets Lekha's family, she too must decide how to handle the community . All this is juxtaposed against a local election, targeting immigration, with a candidate whose slogan is "Don't Like It? Leave," fueling the drama between the local population. As stated, this needs to be brought quickly into late elementary or early middle school as a read-aloud or a classroom reading choice. The issues presented are all too real and the views of characters like Lekha and Avantika need to be heard as well.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    I dare you to read this book without your mouth watering at all of the delicious Indian food being described! I also dare your heart not to melt a bit at the vulnerability and angst we observe with 11 year old Lehka, born in Michigan of immigrant parents, who seems to live two lives: a home life filled with tradition and a school life where she is teased for her culture. Then a new neighbor moves in, Avantika and her family, who are new immigrants from India. Lehka worries that Avantika will be I dare you to read this book without your mouth watering at all of the delicious Indian food being described! I also dare your heart not to melt a bit at the vulnerability and angst we observe with 11 year old Lehka, born in Michigan of immigrant parents, who seems to live two lives: a home life filled with tradition and a school life where she is teased for her culture. Then a new neighbor moves in, Avantika and her family, who are new immigrants from India. Lehka worries that Avantika will be a victim of the xenophobia in her community, but is amazed at how Avantika isn't afraid to stick up for herself. There are overt racist issues (hate crimes and the election of a xenophobic far-right senator) but there are a myriad of micro-aggressions that the girls endure as well, even from 'nice people'. Even Lehka and Avantika realize their need to work on their own issues with colorism, tolerance, and how to be an ally. Slowly Lehka finds her own voice and realizes our society's problems aren't going away quickly, but that we can still make a positive impact one person at a time. I would have loved a glossary to help me with unfamiliar terms and language, but Kelkar does a pretty good job of using context to help the reader along. Another wonderful selection for #WeNeedDiverseBooks in our classrooms to promote understanding, tolerance, and appreciation for all people.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathie

    Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending an ARC of this book to #bookportage for review. I loved the author's 2017 middle grade release called AHIMSA, and AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE was on my list of most anticipated 2020 releases. This story centers around Lekha, who is trying to reconcile the life she has at home with her Indian American family, and her life at school where she desperately tries to ignore the kids who tease her. When another Desi family with a daughter her age moves in ac Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for sending an ARC of this book to #bookportage for review. I loved the author's 2017 middle grade release called AHIMSA, and AMERICAN AS PANEER PIE was on my list of most anticipated 2020 releases. This story centers around Lekha, who is trying to reconcile the life she has at home with her Indian American family, and her life at school where she desperately tries to ignore the kids who tease her. When another Desi family with a daughter her age moves in across the street, Lekha is shocked see Avantika address the school confrontations head on. I loved watching Lekha slowly find her voice through trial and error, both hurting and helping people along the way as she learned how to use it. I loved learning so much about her culture, such as the food, clothing, and celebrations. I learned so much from this story about the challenges that a young person faces when they feel they have to lives two lives, especially at an age when identifying with peers is so important. I also learned about some of the ways that we need to be more respectful of the holidays celebrated by different cultures, and not expecting everyone to celebrate on the same ways, and in the same ways. This book releases on May 12th, and I think young readers will love this story, while quietly learning some very valuable information.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    Check out my full video review: https://youtu.be/ehAfSN5-7Ew American as Paneer Pie follows Lekha who always has struggled fitting in at school, being the only Indian girl. Then a new family moves in next door and they are also an Indian family! Finally someone understands the culture Lekha has come from, but it turns out Avantika has a very different attitude towards bullying, she does not take this quietly as Lekha always have.. Finally getting around to write a review for this, even though my Check out my full video review: https://youtu.be/ehAfSN5-7Ew American as Paneer Pie follows Lekha who always has struggled fitting in at school, being the only Indian girl. Then a new family moves in next door and they are also an Indian family! Finally someone understands the culture Lekha has come from, but it turns out Avantika has a very different attitude towards bullying, she does not take this quietly as Lekha always have.. Finally getting around to write a review for this, even though my video review has been up for ages. This middle-grade book is a great story with a lot of heart. Lekha finding pride for where her family comes from, discovering her voice and finding a real friend that understands her was heartwarming to read about. Her trying to fit in at school, dealing with the racism that happens in the community was heartbreaking, but still important and gut-wrenching. I think the author balanced everything that was happening in this book well. The character growth and everything Lekha goes through seems very real and authentic. It has some really great moments and hopefully lots of different young people can find joy in this book. Would recommend a lot. 4/5 stars.

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