Same Sun Here
Meena recently moved to New York City from India, where she has lived with her grandmother all her life. River lives in the mountains of Kentucky. They become pen pals and agree to tell each other the truth, sometimes confessing ideas and feelings they don't share with people around them. Meena's parents are working to get U.S. citizenship, and she loves drawing and reading. River's mom has been sick, but his grandmother is an activist working to save the town and the environment from a coal mining company, which has been leveling a nearby mountain.
Lots of books have alternating perspectives lately, and this one does it with one author for Meena and a different author for River, which works to make their voices more authentic. I prefer it to Save Me a Seat and I Will Always Write Back for its realism, detail, and the fact that it doesn't try to over-simplify its message. It would have been easy to make River the learner about Meena and her culture, but River's culture is also something can readers can learn about - from songs, food, and nature to feeling belittled by people who make fun of Kentucky accents or "hillbillies" in general. Meena and her family experience racism and struggles related to immigration. Although the book shows many things that River and Meena agree about and have in common, it also shows some disagreements and misunderstandings, which make it more realistic.
The book follows their lives over the course of a year, and it features a number of different hopes, problems, and relationships. This makes it more realistic, and we get to understand their lives better, but since there isn't a single central problem with sub-plots (other than getting to know each other better), the pacing may seem slow for some readers. This would be a good book to study and discuss, especially to kick off a pen pal program, or in conjunction with a long-term examination of how people around the world live their lives differently, yet have so much in common.
"Sometimes you write things in your letters that I thought nobody had ever thought before, except for me. But then there it is in your letter." p. 137
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