The story of a young woman’s struggles with racism, sexism and coming-of-age in a foreign land.
London skillfully weaves the dramatic and suspenseful story of Ana, an adolescent girl, as she emigrates from Montenegro to Brooklyn, N.Y., and invites the reader to journey alongside her as she struggles to fit in. Ana is torn from her postwar homeland when a Serbian soldier tries to rape her, and the family kills him to protect her. As a Muslim in an orthodox country, Ana is not safe. Her family ships her off to cousins living in Brooklyn so she can finish her high school education without fear of retaliation from the Serbian army. Terrified and saddened to leave, Ana says goodbye to her parents, sister and nephew, as well as her boyfriend and best friend. She’s greeted by an unfriendly family who seems inconvenienced by her presence. Peers at school, who do not understand her conservative Muslim attire and her foreign accent, tease and even threaten her. She seeks solace in the one true friend she makes at school, a Chinese girl named Su Lee and in Adi, a good-looking Indian guy who returns her interest. The silver lining of Ana’s new friendships, however, is shrouded in storm clouds, as her cousins refuse to spend time with anyone with “brown skin,” and Carmen, a girl at school who claims to be Adi’s girlfriend, picks on her. To make matters worse, an aggressive Italian guy at school, Paul, takes an unhealthy interest in Ana and kidnaps her at gunpoint when she rejects his advances. The irony of Ana’s supposed safety in America after her similarly terrifying encounter in Montenegro is not lost. London succeeds in presenting the very complicated global themes of war, racism, Islamophobia and rape in a comprehensible way that is appropriate for adolescents and adults.
An emotional journey through a risky world that a girl displaced from her homeland must navigate.