Rani Patel, daughter of Gujarati immigrants, feels isolated for more than one reason on the Hawaiian island of Molokai in 1991.
Readers first meet Rani as she shaves her head following her discovery of her father’s affair with a “barely out-of-adolescence homewrecker.” That this is the traditional gesture of a widow takes on ever greater significance as the story progresses. Her mother distant, her crush on the handsome, (mostly) Native Hawaiian Pono unrequited, Rani’s only comfort is in hip-hop and the rhymes she lays down—until Mark, a hot, older haole who works at a nearby resort and patronizes her family’s convenience store, shows some interest in her slam poems and in her. When, as MC Sutra, Rani’s invited to audition for hip-hop club 4eva Flowin’, she finds community—and complication. Rani relates her tale in an energetic, often wry present-tense account that effortlessly enfolds unitalicized Hawaiian and Gujarati as well as Hawaiian pidgin and hip-hop slang; import if not exact meaning should be clear to readers, and a glossary fills in the gaps. Rap’s political side is, like Rani, “in full effect,” as she takes on some of the traditions that have critically injured her family in electric slam poems. Author Patel is a psychiatrist, and a concluding note explains that although Rani’s recovery from incest is unrealistically speedy, it can stand as a model for victims.
A powerfully particular, 100 percent genuine character commands this gutsy debut. (Historical fiction. 14-18)