That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244570-4 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-244572-8 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9–12
Shabnam didn’t plan to work at a pie stand the summer after high school graduation, but then she fell for college-guy Jamie, who invited her to work alongside him at his aunt’s business. Now she’s thrilled with her first romance, which leads her to reach out to her cool friend Farah, from whom she drifted when Farah began wearing the hijab. It’s also Jamie who indirectly leads her to connect more deeply to her distant mathematician father through the Urdu poetry he loves, which in turn fascinates Jamie. But what will happen to this relationship when the summer ends? Shabnam’s narration is like Shabnam herself, eager, naïve, funny, at times a little [End Page 456] jumbled, and deeply endearing. She is an absolutely credible kid of a complicated immigrant legacy, in school making up dramatic stories to cover her ignorance about her great-uncle’s experience in the India/Pakistan Partition while privately considering him to look “a turban away from scary mullah,” but also increasingly curious about her family history. Shabnam’s relationship with Jamie (well drawn as a guy who sincerely adores whichever girl is in front of him at the moment) is realistic and heartfelt, but the real resonance lies in her hard-won reconnection with Farah and her new consideration of her father and her mother, who emerge as compelling and dimensional characters. Ultimately, this is a warm-hearted story that may encourage readers, like Shabnam, to find possibilities in greater human connections.