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NAMING MAYA by Uma Krishnaswami


by Uma Krishnaswami

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: April 6th, 2004
ISBN: 0-374-35485-5
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In a narrative redolent of spices, an American-born Indian girl sorts out memory and identity in the house of her grandfather. The day after they arrive in India from New Jersey, the family’s ancient cook arrives to take care of them; a character in the truest sense of the word, Mami nevertheless begins to exhibit behavior that makes Maya think there may be something more going on than simple eccentricity. Maya’s concerns are complicated by her own grief at her parents’ divorce; she cannot trust her busy mother with Mami’s secrets. Maya’s first-person, present-tense narrative brings her grandfather’s southern India town vividly to hot, dusty, crowded, vibrant life. Her heritage swirls around her as she strengthens her relationship with her extended Indian family, worries about Mami, and puzzles through her reactions to the dissolution of her family. Krishnaswami has a little too much going on here—a subplot involving Maya’s father’s family never develops as thoroughly as it should—but her language is lush and Maya’s observations are piercingly honest. Both setting and protagonist are entirely memorable, and difficult to leave behind. (Fiction. 10-14)