Neesha Meminger's debut YA novel sheds light on life for a teenage girl of Indian heritage in post-9/11 America. 17 year old Samar has been very assimilated into American culture by her mother who has severed all ties to her family due to religious and philosophical differences stemming from her own childhood. Samar and her mother have a pretty good bond until a long lost uncle appears on their doorstep and awakens a strong desire in Samar- aka Sammy- to know more about about the family and Sikh heritage that her mother has done everything she can to keep hidden from her. What unfolds is the story of a 3rd generation brown skinned girl who is as American as they come but while coming to terms with her heritage she also has to do the same with the profound ignorance of which she finds herself a target.

Meminger's teenage characters have clear, authentic voices. The boys are all pretty immature and the girls think they're more mature than they really are. I really appreciated her attention to such small details like including a model of color as one Sammy and her white best friend, Molly admire. Also, their school seems to be a real microcosm in terms of the socioeconomic and multicultural/multi-ethnic backgrounds represented. The adults are also written with relevancy and clarity. Especially Sammy's mother, Sharanjit, and her uncle, Sandeep. In spite of their differing ideas and the many years since their separation, the love between this brother and sister is evident.

One of my favorite moments is when Sammy, in spite of her mother's adverse opinion of "religion", has a meaningful experience at a local gurdwara (Sikh temple). This really speaks volumes to the difference between religion and spirituality and how the latter is often overshadowed by the former.

Shine Coconut Moon is a great story that I believe all teens could identify with and those a bit older who were teens during the events of 9/11. This novel exposes the realities of identity becoming more prevalent for many who were at once Americans then suddenly found themselves under unfair scrutiny. Also, it should speak to all ages in general on knowing and treasuring family and heritage.

South Asian Author
POC Reading



03/25/2010 9:36am

Nice review! I like your point about the school--I noticed it subconsciously while reading, but didn't quite place it in context. I think Shine... is one of those books that'll hold up well to re-reading.

03/25/2010 8:34pm

I've seen this book around but for some reason it didn't register that it's about an Indian girl! I guess I wasn't paying close enough attention. I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for it.

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