A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
As with The Night Diary, much of the history and day-to-day reality of 1948 India, with formerly peaceful neighbors suddenly slaughtering each other over perceived religious differences, and others just trying to survive and help out when they can, will be a revelation to many Western readers. Packed with details about food, clothes, and daily life at the time, the story is based on the history of the author's own religiously and culturally diverse Indian family, and she includes a glossary and historical information.
"We're blessed by anything watching over us. What's bad is telling anyone else who they should pray to or thinking one religion is better than another. That's what gets us into a lot of trouble." "Blood is blood, bone is bone"—we're all human, regardless of our skin tone or belief system, and should be kind and decent to each other. Each person's skills, talents, and experiences are important, and it's important to respect them. Helping people whenever you can is important.
Positive Role Models
Twins Amil and Nisha share a strong bond and a loving family: their widowed dad, a doctor, who works hard to help people while dealing with workplace discrimination himself; their grandmother, who's kind, wise, supportive; and Kazi, a Muslim man who was their servant back home in what is now Pakistan, but is now an uncle to them. Their mother died giving birth to them but remains a constant, loved presence in their lives. The kids try to do the right thing under difficult circumstances, and often take risks to help others in trouble. (There's a bit of old-school innocence here and there that's jarring by 21st century standards, as when a kid swipes one of his doctor dad's prescription pads—to draw on.)
The family are recent refugees just settling into something like stable life. Amil and Nisha's father's family is Hindu; their late mother was Muslim. They think this means they should get along with everybody, and their father, a doctor, agrees, but they face a lot of opposition, as people seem determined to abuse and kill each other based not just on whether they belong to a different religion, but on whether they belong to a different branch of the same religion. They befriend a refugee Muslim kid who faces a lot of discrimination and trouble because of his religion. Amil is dyslexic but really good at drawing. Nisha is an excellent writer and painfully shy; Amil often does the talking for both of them.
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Violence & Scariness
Amil and Nisha still have flashbacks and nightmares about the religious violence that forced them to flee their homes, the times they almost died on the journey, the people they saw killed before their eyes (much of which is described in more detail in The Night Diary). A hospital refuses to treat a starving, injured kid because he's from the "wrong" religion. The assassination of Gandhi by a religious extremist adds to the terror as rioting, fighting, and killing result. The twins' elderly grandmother falls ill and lands in the hospital, and they fear she's dying.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Amil has a crush on a girl in his class. At 12, he and twin sister Nisha no longer share a room because it's not "proper."
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A bully refers to a kid as "untouchable," a slur for people belonging to the Dalit caste.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Amil and the After continues the story that began in The Night Diary, in which author Veera Hiranandani tells of a family very like her own ancestors, who were forced to flee their longtime home in India once it became part of Pakistan in 1948. Twelve-year-old twins Amil and Nisha (the narrator of The Night Diary) have grown up at home in the traditions of their Muslim mom, who died giving birth to them, and their Hindu dad, who's raised them with strong values of kindness and tolerance—views that are very much under fire as Hindus and Muslims kill each other by the thousands. The family is relatively safe in Bombay (now Mumbai), as their doctor dad finds work in a hospital, but the kids struggle with relatable day-to-day challenges: Amil is a talented artist but also dyslexic, while Nisha is great with written words but painfully shy. They also struggle with the new world they find themselves in—especially when they befriend a Muslim kid, a refugee like them, who faces abuse and danger in Hindu Bombay. There are strong messages of family, friendship, being yourself, and letting others do the same. The author uses a lot of common Indian words for food, clothing, and other everyday objects; she includes a detailed appendix with personal and historical notes, as well as a glossary.
Is It Any Good?
Veera Hiranandani's harrowing, uplifting tale of an interreligious family fleeing violence in 1948 India brings to life the hopes, challenges, and terrors of the era, as seen by 12-year-olds. Amil and the After finds the title character and twin sister Nisha (narrator of The Night Diary, telling of their escape from their old life) dealing with their new life, trying to find a place in their new world, and grieving for the one that's lost forever as religious violence engulfs the nation. Western readers especially will find the vivid history and the day-to-day realities as India emerged from colonialism a startling revelation; many kids and adults will relate to the kids as they try to do the right thing, help their loved ones, and deal with a battered world that sometimes makes little sense.
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Our Editors Recommend
Books with Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander Characters
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