Back when I read The Professor of Light, I knew I wanted Marina Budhos to write young adult fiction. I picked up a copy of the IndiaInk paperback edition of The Professor of Light in Chennai, and it certainly wasn't being marketed as YA. Never mind that, I knew! I knew this writer needed to find her way into young adult literature, and I knew her books would be rich and interesting, dense with history and bursting with heart.
Not bragging or anything, but it's nice to know that I was right. Ask Me No Questions (2006) brought us the story of Nadira and her family, a story of fear, struggle, and identity in a post-9/11 America.
Tell Us We're Home is the story of three eighth-grade girls: Jaya, Maria, and Lola, the daughters of maids and nannies who work for the families of the girls' wealthy classmates. Jaya stands at the pivotal center of the novel. The triple braid of this novel makes room for echoes to go back and forth among the three stories. When her mother is accused of theft the scant footing that Jaya has in the world threatens to erode away, and each new slippage affects the lives of her friends as well. Maria's mother's anguished whisper, "Don't be a stranger to me" could well express unspoken fears in all three families. Lola's question, raised in an assignment for Mr. Cohen, could be the novel's central question: "Being American you're supposed to feel like you have a right. But what if you don't feel like you have a right to anything?" Budhos excavates class in a society that pretends not to possess such a thing. The voices are perfectly tuned. The narrative flows. And in all Tell Us We're Home leaves footprints in the mind long after the book is closed.