Sheth, Kashmira. Blue Jasmine. New York: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 2004. Print. ISBN 0786855657
Blue Jasmine is a quiet novel. While it addresses things like growing up and bullies, it’s primary focus is about knowing yourself. With so many contemporary realistic fiction novels seeming to revel in being edgy or gritty, Blue Jasmine reminds readers that there can be quieter problems.
While the argument could be made that the novel is about the Trivedi family, which isn’t an incorrect statement, its primary focus is on Seema, a twelve-year-old Indian girl who moves to Iowa City with only her immediate family. Before leaving India, Seema gets in an argument with her cousin, Raju, because her family is moving. She also learns that the girl in class she never liked, and often made fun of, is from a poor family.
Once in Iowa City, Seema finds herself not only missing her family, and the weather, in India, but also feeling guilty about how she treated her poor classmate. When another “new girl” starts at her school and begins teasing Seema, Seema realizes just how the girl back home must have felt.
Despite the fact that Seema gains knowledge, and has a birthday, it would be wrong to call this a coming of age novel. I would even argue that, despite the character’s age, this isn’t a teen novel at all. What it does remind the reader is that education, whether the kind provided by school or the kind provided by life, is important. At one point, Seema puts it this way, “Perhaps the more you learn about the world, I thought, the more you learn about yourself” (p. 183).
This book has a family tree at the beginning and a glossary at the back. Both are extremely helpful as it is very easy to forget how people are related to Seema (including her parent’s names) and because not all of the Indian words are defined in the story.
As odd as it sounds, this would be a good book for a class to read before studying WWII. Multiple times in this story, the swastika appears. When in America, Seema doesn’t mention it or in one instance, her father asks her mother to exchange her gold swastika (a sign of good fortune in Indian culture) for a pearl necklace. It is an important reminder that some symbols mean different things in different regions of the world.
Paul Zindel First Novel Award-2002
Children’s Book Award 2005-Notable Book Intermediate Fiction
CCBC—“First-time novelist Kashmira Sheth shows remarkable talent for creating credible, well-rounded characters who are able to meet the challenge of living in two cultures without being forced to choose between them.”
Kirkus—“The comfortable and confident life 12-year-old Seema Trivedi enjoys in her upper-class neighborhood in India is altered by the family’s move to an American middle-class suburban community…Seema’s classmates in both countries present parallel situations that illustrate the complexities of middle schoolers and their maturation.”
CCBC. Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. 2005. Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=978-0-7868-1855-6.
Kirkus. Kirkus Reviews. May 2004. (Vol. 72, No. 10.) Electronic. Accessed via CLCD at http://ezproxy.twu.edu:4529/index.php/jbookdetail/jqbookdetail?page=1&pos=0&isbn=978-0-7868-1855-6.