MLIS 5653 Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults
Budhos, Marina. Ask Me No Questions. (2006). Antheneum Books For Young Readers. ISBN 978146949206
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Ask Me No Questions is the fictional account of the Hossain family's experiences following the events of 9/11. The family had immigrated from Bangladesh eight years prior to the bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in 2001. The family has been hard-working and productive since their arrival, but after the introduction of the US Patriot Act and other sanctions stemming from the War on Terror, their lives change. No longer safe, and scared of deportation, Mr. Hossain decides that the family must go to Canada, seeking asylum. However, once they get there, everything changes. There is no room for them, and they are sent back into America, where he is arrested and jailed immediately. Nadira and Aisha return to Queens where they live with family until the trial. During the waiting period, Aisha, who has always been the smart girl who is in contention for valedictorian, falls apart. Nadira, the slow and steady one, must figure out what to do. Caught between doing right or doing wrong, she accidentally stumbles onto evidence to help save her father and bring her family back together.
Within the story, the plight of immigrants of every country is experienced. The reader sees the way immigrant children are treated at school, constantly having to look over one's shoulder to see if they have covered their whereabouts, not talking about where they have been or what they are doing, and most importantly, the constant changing of jobs and houses to keep their identity hidden. Budhos does an excellent job of revealing this experience. We feel the fear they feel, their sorrow and sadness, the loneliness and homesickness, but we also begin to understand why they come to America. We experience their desire to fit in and become "Americans" who just want to live the American Dream and get an education and a good job. Budhos also does a good job of making sure that the Muslim culture is incorporated into the story. She includes words, along with their contextual definitions to describe their daily lives, their clothes, their worship practices, etc. This is key to understanding why the Muslim culture is ostracized after 9/11 and why they no longer feel safe in the community they have lived in for eight years. The big cultural issue was the much referred to gender inequalities throughout the book. The girls are breaking away from this tradition, but many references are made to it such as, "Do you think they would have let me drive the car and take you back if they believed all that gender crap? (27) and "You better watch out, " he warns. You spoil your wife too much" (43).
As the plot moves along, Mr. Hossain's fate becomes increasingly unclear when he is accused of making contributions to an enemy organization. He is detained much longer than normal, and when he is not released or deported immediately, the whole family becomes concerned. Nadira even considers buying him a fake social security card. It is during this time that she actually discovers where and what the money is used for that her father was contributing. This discovery leads to a neat, almost too perfect resolution to the novel which readers who are looking for a happy ending will appreciate. However, to me, the ending seems unrealistic considering real-life occurrences that were happening during the novel's setting.
Another problem I found with the novel primarily concerns its editing and publication. I found many, many errors as I read the story, and while most younger readers probably would not catch them, I found many of them to be major. Introductory clauses are not punctuated correctly, words are misspelled, such as "tinny" on page 115, which should be tiny. Actual dialogues between characters are even sometimes left unquoted. These are things that should have been caught by the editors and publishers before ever going to publication. Nothing major, just irritating that these things were not fixed.
Overall, the novel is a good read, enlightening, and an example of happily-ever-after for a family facing uncertain circumstances. It is one that immigrant students will be able to relate to while giving them hope that they may truly be able to live out the dream that everyone who comes to America wants to live: to fit in and procure a better life for themselves and their future posterity.
- ALA Best Book for Young Adults (Received award in 2007)
- ALA Notable Children's Book 2007
- Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2006
- Booklist Editors' Choice 2006
- New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age 2006
- Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (Nominated for an award in 2007)
- Nutmeg Children's Book Award (Nominated for an award in 2009)
- Publishers Weekly, "...14-year-old narrator Nadira Hossain and her family are heading north to Canada, seeking asylum from the harassment that has become routine in the U.S. in the wake of 9/11. The family left Bangladesh for America eight years ago on a tourist visa and stayed; the first lawyer they hired to make them legal citizens was a fraud, the second was unsuccessful. At Flushing High in Queens, with a large population of immigrant students, the "policy" is "Ask me no questions," according to Nadira. But just as her sister, Aisha, is interviewing at colleges like Barnard, with a shot at valedictorian, the questions start coming hard and fast to the people of their community-some of whom disappeared in the night with immigration officers, detained for months before being deported. In a desperate move, the Hossains travel to Canada, where they are turned away; their father, Abba, is placed in a U.S. jail cell at the border, their mother remains in a shelter nearby, and the girls return to Queens to stay with their aunt and uncle..." (C) Feb. 6, 2006
- Horn Book Magazine, "When terrorists slammed planes into the World Trade Center, they changed the lives of thousands of illegal immigrants in the United States. Budhos's moving, quietly powerful novel explores the effects of the Patriot Act and special registration on fourteen-year-old Nadira's family, who arrived from Bangladesh eight years ago and have lived productively but illegally in New York (Queens) ever since...Nadira and Aisha's strategies for surviving and succeeding in high school offer sharp insight into the narrow margins between belonging and not belonging, and though the resolution of the story is perhaps more optimistic than realistic, it feels earned." (C) March 1, 2006
- School Library Journal, "...When Abba's trial begins, Nadira calls upon an inner strength she didn't realize she possessed. Marina Budhos's novel (Atheneum, 2006) paints a compelling portrait of what it was like to be a Muslim teen living in the United States following 9/11. The characters are believable and well-rounded, especially Nadira, who grows from a naive and whiny teenager into a mature, level-headed young woman. Abby Craden's softly accented voice brings to life the emotional turmoil felt by the sisters, and she portrays male and female characters equally well. An excellent listen and an important addition to the study of the immigrant experience."(C) October 1, 2012
Other Marina Budhos titles to read:
- Watched ISBN 0735287147
- Tell Us We're Home ISBN 1416980650
- House of Waiting ISBN 0964129221
· Motomura, Hiroshi. Immigration Outside the Law ISBN 0199768439