A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi – Book Review

Title: A Thousand Questions

Author: Saadia Faruqi

Publisher: Quill Tree Books

Release Date: October 6, 2020

RATING: 4 Stars

Instead of spending summer break in Houston, Texas, Maryam, or Mimi, and her mother travel halfway around the world to visit family in Pakistan. At first, Mimi detests the prospect of staying in a foreign country with grandparents she’s never met in person. Her nani (grandmother) seems like a fire-breathing, dragon lady, the azaan and election rallies are loud and unending, and her mom hardly spends time with her. Yet, as Mimi moves past her discomfort, she befriends Sakina, the family’s cook’s daughter. While they seem polar opposites at first – Mimi a rich, American and Sakina a poor Pakistani – they connect over food, language, Pakistani culture, and their dreams. They help each other get one step closer to the futures they desire: school for Sakina and a relationship with her father for Mimi. Hopefully, there will be enough time to accomplish it all before Mimi and her mother return to the United States.

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi takes readers on an intimate journey to Karachi, Pakistan. Beyond Mimi’s family’s rich abode to Sakina’s poor neighborhood lined with trash piles, readers are fully immersed in Karachi, amplifying its prominence as the story’s setting. This dynamic place comes to life through Faruqi’s sensory prose, easily making those descriptions of time and place the author’s greatest strength. The development of Mimi and Sakina’s relationship rounds out the depiction as their interactions provide valuable insight into Pakistani society and culture. Finally, while Mimi explores her understanding of what it is to be part-Pakistani and Sakina fights against poverty and the class system, readers’ perspectives will also expand. This is an #ownvoices novel, and the dual perspectives will help readers see the world in new ways. Mimi’s letters to her father greatly contribute to meaningful perspective-building while creating authentic moments of tension and conflict. At the end, Mimi’s reconciliation with her father’s abandonment is resolved with near-improbable coincidences. The conclusion feels forced as a result, but it is still not perfect. It also serves to give hope where there previously is none, a worthwhile note to end on.

A Thousand Questions will surprise, excite, and elicit thoughtful questions and empathy in middle grade readers. The novel deeply explores themes of identity, classism, and family, all topics of interest for the intended audience. A Thousand Questions would be a welcome addition to literature circles focused on global perspectives or focused on Pakistan and the Indian subcontinent. Either option will provide students with a rich, immersive, and diverse literary experience.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and publisher, Quill Tree Books, for an eARC of this book.

Classroom Applications

  • Literature Circles – Use the novel as part of a global novel study exploration.
  • Book Club or Book Exchange – Share the novel with students that enjoy reading about different places and cultures.

Nonfiction Connections: The list below outlines topics that will enrich your students’ understanding of the novel.

  • History of Pakistan
  • Pakistan Society
  • Pakistani Culture

Book Companions: The following are great books to pair with A Thousand Questions. In parenthesis are the specific aspects students could explore when synthesizing across the texts.

  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Character Connections, Themes, Nonfiction Connections)
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani (Character Connections, Themes, Nonfiction Connections)
  • The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman (Character Connections, Themes, Nonfiction Connections)
  • Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (Character Connections, Themes, Nonfiction Connections)

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