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This text is not only relevant to the Egyptian teenager, but it is relevant to all teenagers and asks the kind of questions that my students ask in there everyday lives. It was a pleasure to read as an adult, and the buy-in I observed in my classroom was well worth it. Vidya is an Indian girl in the 's with a close knit family. Vidya's father is a doctor and she has a mother and a brother. It is during a march when her father helps a woman who has been thrashed by the British soldiers that he is in turn, viciously beaten and is no longer a vibrant doctor but dependent on his family for his every need.

Vidya's family must go live with her father's family, work long hours and endure insults and slurs.


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Vidya once wanted to attend school and even though this seems impossible now, she longs to get an education, which leads her to get permission from her grandfather to "climb the stairs" and spend time reading in the library. Vidya also brings her baby neice while she pores over the many wonderful books. She also meets Raman who seems to like the same books and leads to many long conversations. Her brother decides to go into the army and fight and is banished from his grandfather's home. Vidya can't understand why he is forsaking her and the family.

Will Vidya be able to hold onto her dream of becoming educated and bettering the world like her father, or will she be married off in an arranged marriage? This book turned out to be better than I expected. I enjoyed the main character young adult telling a historic and personal story. For Americans an understanding of India's World War 2 time period is not often heard.


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The book blends well the Hindu culture and problems of extended family, a young adult maturing,the freedom fight, the British, the tragedy of her father and more to make an interesting tale. Vidya's refuge in the library as well her personal struggles are touching. Plus her connection to Raman develops in a very satisfying manner. This book is targeted at young adults, but I really enjoyed it as an adult reader.

word choice - Do you walk up or climb stairs - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange

It took me back to a time when my parents would have been teens, pre-teens and really captured their daily life, as well as the larger arena of events. I was a teen nearly a half century after the protagonist Vidya was, but her situation, the choices she has to make and how differently the same events shape different members of her family and lead them down different paths was captured brilliantly. I enjoyed that Vidya was feisty, independent and even a bit feminist. Like most Indian novels, this one is wrapped around a family tragedy -- Usually, that would mean I'd pass on the book, but the very real, empathetic characterization pulls you in through to the end.

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I shared the book with my mother Usha and my daughter Arathi. All three of us found the plot very engaging and could not put the book down till we finished it. Each of us could identify with Vidya in different ways. The author's narration is so vivid and spontaneous that the characters come to life. The experience of growing up in a 'joint family' is described most realistically.

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It brought back memories, good and not-so-good, of summer vacations when a whole host of cousins, uncles, aunts would descend on us. The covert hierarchy that exists in extended Indian families is also portrayed very well. In my own family, the more 'successful' and prosperous members were accorded more respect and treated better than the others.


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They also tended to be about as nasty as Vidya's periamma. I look forward to reading more books by Padma. See all 47 reviews.

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Children and Young Adult Literature portal. Retrieved from " https: Views Read Edit View history. This page was last edited on 12 November , at By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Oct 16, Minutes Young Adult Buy. Feb 04, Pages Young Adult. Oct 16, Minutes Young Adult. Fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of going to college— an unusual aspiration for a girl living in British occupied India during World War II. Then tragedy strikes, and Vidya and her brother are forced to move into a traditional household with their extended family, where women are meant to be married, not educated.

The question is, will she be strong enough to survive? There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity.