Sunday, September 16, 2012

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani

From the publisher:
Meena and River have a lot in common: fathers forced to work away from home to make ends meet, grandmothers who mean the world to them, and faithful dogs.  But Meena is an Indian girl living in New York City's Chinatown, while River is a Kentucky coal miner's son.  As Meena's family studies for citizenship exams and River's town faces devastating mountaintop removal, this unlikely pair become pen pals, sharing thoughts and, as their camaraderie deepens, discovering common ground in their disparate experiences. 

With honesty and humor, Meena and River bridge the miles between them, creating a friendship that inspires bravery and defeats cultural misconceptions.  Narrated in two voices, each voice distinctly articulated by a separate gifted author, this chronicle of two lives powerfully conveys the great value of being and having a friend and the joys of opening our lives to others who live beneath the same sun.  

In this extraordinary novel in two voices, an Indian immigrant girl in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner's son find strength and perspective by sharing their true selves across the miles.

My Thoughts:
In a world that has become suspicious of those who don't look like ourselves, Same Sun Here is a refreshing look at what can be - that as we get to know other, who we are inside takes precedence over what we look like.  What an important lesson Meena and River teach us.

Written in epistolary form, the novel enables the to experience these two different characters simultaneously, as they get to know and trust each other.  Here are two kids, both of whom do not have personal computers at their disposal, which alone tells something of their economic circumstances, and they must rely on good old fashion letter writing, at least most of the time.  They do resort to email exchanged from a school and public library computer as the story progresses and their lives head in crisis mode.

Right from the start, pen-pals Meena and River agree to be their own true self with each other in their letters.  As they write back and forth, and get to know each other better, this agreement sometimes leads to arguments, soul-bearing and the start of a deepening friendship.  And eventually, Meena and River are comfortable enough with each other to reveal their inner most thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears in their letters, thing that they may never have said face to face to anyone else.

The letter writing format allows the kids to cover a diverse number of topics, including economic hardship, political decisions, and bigotry and to talk about the direct impact they have on the lives of Meena and River's families.  And it allows for an exploration of cultural differences in a very frank, but sensitive way.  As each child reveals more and more about their life, they are able to give each other the emotional support they both need so badly during what turns out to be such a transitional year for both of them.

Same Sun Here is a well-written novel.  The language is clear and age appropriate, the characters well-developed and believable.  Unfamiliar terms that are specific to their different lives are defined in the course of the letters, so the reader never has to wonder what, for instance, mountaintop removal is and why it puts people out of work.

I felt a special connection to and understanding of this book thanks to authors Silas House and Neela Vaswani.  On the one hand, like Meena, I grew up in NYC and recognize some of the things she faced in the novel, like rent control and greedy landlords.  On the other hand, Silas House is an associate professor at Berea College.  My Baugh family comes from Berea and more than one of them graduated from Beara College.  So, aside that it is such a well done story, how could I not love this book?

I am sincerely hoping there will be a sequel to Same Sun Here.  I would really like to find out what happens to Meena and River next.

This book is recommended for reader age 10+
This book was borrowed from the library.

Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger over at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scrbe.  Thanks, Shannon.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly event hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts.  Thanks, Jen.


  1. I started reading Same Sun Here but still haven't finished. I think I just need to start it over. I really enjoyed the little I read of it.

    1. I hope you give it another try. It really is worth finishing.

  2. I don't read enough middle grade fiction! There is never enough time with all the awesome YA stuff I get to read. I have seen great reviews of this one, though. What's next on your list?

  3. I like to switch between middle grade and YA, so maybe next I will do The Alchemy of Forever. Have you read that?

  4. Love the cover and the story sounds really good. I will tuck this one away for when I have more time!

    1. Julie, I think the cover is great, too. I hope you get a chance to read this novel, it is so intersing how the kids approach things.

  5. What a great cover! This sounds like a book I could use with my 5th grade students. I would love to read it and find out more about it. I like that it is written in letter format- I think that will appeal to kids. Fantastic review!

  6. Thanks, Stephanie. Yes, it is a great cover. I liked the letter writting format so much because it gave insight into what the kids thought and felt about things. The aauthors really worked well together and never lost each kid's voice throughout.


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