BOOK REVIEW | Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

BOOK REVIEW | Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

Sickness, Death of a Loved One, Grief, Racism

Indian-American, Muslim

This was such a great book, and I’m glad that I had the chance to read it. I will say that I didn’t realize this was taking place in the 80s until it specifically said so. So clearly my context clues were not up to par this time around. One of the reasons why I found this book was because I was looking for something similar to Other Words for Home, and I found this one through a database called Novelist. I could see why it was considered similar. Both are Middle Grade, both are told in verse, both are #ownvoices and both deal with cultural identity in the United States. In this one though, Reha is the daughter of immigrants, as opposed to an immigrant herself. All she knew was life in the States, but she was still trying to embrace her culture from what she knew.

In this story, Reha doesn’t seem to live up to her parents’ expectations though. I understand this thought process since she wasn’t particularly raised with the kind of expectations that her parents had when they were living in India. This part is reminiscent of another book and movie that I love so much – The Joy Luck Club – where the four mothers are upset that their daughters aren’t “Chinese enough” after having raised them in America. There’s always this conflict of either not being enough, or being too much, and we are still trying to find some sort of middle ground. Or do we still need to?

Reha and her mother didn’t seem to relate to one another either, which actually made me pretty sad. This is coming from someone who is pretty close to her mom and while I don’t always relate to her, I couldn’t imagine not having her in my life somehow. Granted, Reha is in middle school, and maybe back then I wasn’t as hip and cool as she was, but I wanted to be. I like being able to see the different relationship between Reha and her mom, versus Reha and her dad, as well as Reha with others her age. She was an interesting character to see through, and I felt all of her pain and joy as she told us her story.

I understand that the story is told through verse, but for some reason when I was listening to it, it really didn’t seem like it. And it could just be because I’m so used to poetry rhyming and then my English teacher having us figure out “What is the author trying to say in this poem?” Like I DON’T KNOW! But this is clear. I know what Reha is going through. I don’t have to try to figure it out. So it’s weird to me, but I love it! So don’t think this is me complaining lol. I just needed to make that part known.

So long story short, I enjoyed this one a lot! I hope that more people read this one, and hopefully if you do, you enjoy it as well!

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