The House of Djinn

The House of Djinn

4.0 4
by Suzanne Fisher Staples

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Mumtaz, daughter of Shabanu, has lived with her father's traditional Muslim family for 10 years, enduring the scorn of her auntie Leyla day in and day out. Her only protectors are her uncle Omar and Baba, patriarch of the Amirzai tribe, but even they would disown her if they knew she had a crush on a Hindu boy. The only person Mumtaz can confide in is her cousin

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Mumtaz, daughter of Shabanu, has lived with her father's traditional Muslim family for 10 years, enduring the scorn of her auntie Leyla day in and day out. Her only protectors are her uncle Omar and Baba, patriarch of the Amirzai tribe, but even they would disown her if they knew she had a crush on a Hindu boy. The only person Mumtaz can confide in is her cousin Jameel. Unfortunately, Jameel lives with his parents in California and he's been out of touch since he fell in love with a Jewish girl. 

When Baba dies unexpectedly, Mumtaz's world is thrown into chaos. Without Baba keeping order in the tribe, Mumtaz and Jameel find themselves thrust together in the middle of an ongoing power struggle—the same one that sent Shabanu into hiding a decade earlier.

A compelling conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Newbery Honor Book Shabanu and continued in Haveli,The House of Djinn explores the delicate balance between freedom and tradition in modern-day Pakistan.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

As atmospheric and suspenseful as its predecessors, Shabanuand Haveli, this evocative novel transports readers to an intriguing corner of the universe to provide an insightful look at modern Middle Eastern culture. Fortunately, readers need no previous familiarity with the saga of Shabanu, fourth wife of a Pakistani tribal leader's son; they will readily enter Staples's world. As the story opens, Shabanu's husband, Rahim, has been killed by his brother during a land dispute, and Shabanu has gone into hiding, allowing her parents to believe she is dead. Meanwhile, her teenage daughter, Mumtaz, is being raised by an abusive aunt in the family compound. Mumtaz, often treated like a servant, finds a trustworthy friend and confidant in cousin Jameel, who now lives in America but returns with his parents to Pakistan each summer. As Staples investigates the perspectivesof the three main characters, Shabanu, Mumtaz and Jameel, she shows how each feels disjointed from the family but remains bound by ancient traditions. Western and Islamic ways clash, yet the author so thoroughly immerses readers in the setting that few will want to judge. Like most of Staples's fiction, this work significantly enlarges the reader's understanding of a complex society. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.

This is Staples’s third novel about Shabanu’s family in the tribal areas of Pakistan, following Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind and Haveli. It is actually more the story of Shabanu’s daughter Mumtaz, who is now 15 years old, and it isn’t necessary to have read the first two books to pick up the story here. Because Mumtaz’s cousin Jameel, who is growing up in San Francisco, is also a main character, and since their families are hastily arranging a marriage between Mumtaz and Jameel, readers in the West will learn a great deal about the cultural divides between the tribal expectations in Pakistan and a skateboarding-loving American teenager. A djinn is a spirit, a ghost, and it is said that such a being inhabits their grandfather’s home. Mumtaz is aware of the djinn, just as she is amazingly sensitive and intelligent about many aspects of her family’s life. There is danger, as the evil uncle plots to kill them, just as he killed Mumtaz’s father ten years before. The streets of Lahore seem wonderfully beautiful and exotic to the Western reader, and Staples knows Pakistan well and can convey the complicated aspects of its traditional culture. This will especially appeal to teenagers with a family connection to South Asia--the photograph on the cover is strikingly attractive. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This interesting but often confusing story introduces young adult readers to the Pakistani culture especially as it pertains to women and girls. It centers on Shabanu, a young woman of 30, and her large extended family. Shabanu has been in hiding for 10 years following the murder of her husband by his brother. The brother had threatened to kill Shabanu and her young daughter, Mumtaz, as well. To save her daughter, Shabanu goes into hiding at her sister-in-law's house. Her husband's family takes in her daughter but treats her like a servant. Mumtaz believes that her mother is dead. Shabanu finally decides to come out of hiding and secretly meets with her daughter. Her daughter has mixed emotions about the revelation. The story explores the juxtaposition of American and Pakistani culture, especially among teenagers, as Mumtaz struggles with young love and her cousin, Jameel, who lives in San Francisco, does, too. The author describes all facets of Pakistani life, so different from our own, using their language when possible; however, the overuse of descriptive adjectives often interferes with the rhythm and understanding of the prose. The large extended family is difficult to keep straight, but the differences in culture are worth learning about for young people's understanding of our world. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.
VOYA - Amy S. Pattee
This sequel to Shabanu (Knopf, 1989/VOYA April 1990) and Haveli (1993/VOYA December 1993) finds the now not-quite-thirty-year-old Shabanu in hiding in her family's Lahore, Pakistan, city estate, where she has lived for ten years, sequestered on a rooftop. The onetime "daughter of the wind" can no longer tolerate hiding from the in-laws who think her dead and dreams of reuniting with her daughter, fifteen-year-old Mumtaz. Mumtaz, known as Muti, lives unhappily with Shabanu's dead husband's family, her education and upbringing assured by Shabanu's brother-in-law. A confluence of events-Shabanu's decision to leave the haveli and make herself known to her daughter, the grave illness of the family patriarch, and Muti and her cousin Jameel's first attempts at independence-lead to family crisis as disparate members of the clan battle for control. Staples's third novel recounts several incidents from the earlier books in the series (it has, after all, been over ten years since the publication of Haveli) but moves quickly toward its climax, the resolution of which might surprise Western readers. As usual, Staples includes rich, descriptive detail throughout the narrative and incorporates details of contemporary Pakistani life in a non-didactic way. The faster pace and shorter length of the third novel is in sharp contrast to the first two books, and although it might draw new readers, fans of Staples's other Shabanu stories might find themselves wanting more from this installment. Reviewer: Amy S. Pattee
Nicole Avery
A continuation of Susan Fisher Staples's tale first told in her book Shabanu, readers are introduced to Mumtaz, Shabanu's daughter, who still does not know that her mother is not really dead. Mumtaz has been living with relatives who treat her poorly, and her only friends are Jameel, her American cousin, and her Baba (grandfather). When Baba passes away, the family is turned upside down. Together, Jameel, successor of Baba as the local tribe leader, and Mumtaz, Jameel's selected wife, must choose between following their Islamic values and pursuing their own modern views of love. The American/ Pakistani identity conflict that Jameel faces and Mumtaz's reunion with her mother are events that teens of varying cultures and backgrounds will be able to identify with. A glossary is provided to help potential readers, eighth- through 10th-grade students, with unfamiliar terms. I would recommend this book for small group instruction to foster textto- text and text-to-world connections and as a great addition to a school and classroom library. Reviewer: Nicole Avery
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10- Splendidly drawn characters caught between ancient Pakistani traditions and modern Western influences mark this strong sequel to Staples's Shabanu (1989) and Haveli (1993, both Knopf). For 10 years, Mumtaz has lived uneasily with her deceased father's extended family, sent there when her mother, Shabanu, staged her own death to protect her daughter from her treacherous Uncle Nazir. Attending a modern school and doted on by her grandfather Baba, a tribal patriarch who embraces Western ways of thinking, Mumtaz treasures the arrival each summer of her skateboarding cousin and best friend Jameel, who lives in California with his parents. At 15, Mumtaz is thrown into emotional disarray when she learns that Shabanu is alive and in hiding nearby. Then Baba's unexpected death prompts Jameel's succession as tribal leader, and the edict that Jameel and Mumtaz are to be married leaves the teens reeling. The richly detailed backdrop of upper-class Pakistani life in Lahore ranges from private country clubs to open-air markets, with exotic touches such as secret messages sent by pigeons. Staples adds a supernatural element via the djinn who appears to Mumtaz and Jameel in the form of Baba, offering posthumous guidance and protection. The author explores the role of educated women in traditional Islamic society, the importance of family and tribe in the Pakistani social structure, and the impact of Western education on emerging leadership through the candid reactions, honest emotions, and complex relationships of multidimensional people. Their story moves along quickly and intensely with elements of intrigue and adventure, holding readers' attention and sympathies.-JoyceAdams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS

Kirkus Reviews
In this eloquently written sequel to Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind (1989) and Haveli (1993), Shabanu has been in hiding for ten years, fearing for the life of her daughter, Mumtaz. Everyone, including her parents and daughter, believes Shabanu to be dead, but it's time for her to return from "the realm of the buried" and seek out her daughter. Fifteen-year-old Mumtaz has fallen in love with her Hindu tennis teacher at the Lahore Club; meanwhile, her cousin Jameel lives in California and has given his heart to a beautiful Jewish skateboarder. When the family's patriarch dies, his choice of successor stirs up old jealousies and renewed violence, causing the lives of Shabanu, Mumtaz and Jameel to converge. Staples skillfully draws readers into the complicated web of relationships in the fictional Amirzai family in this fascinating tale of the conflict between tribal tradition and modernization in contemporary Pakistan. Though this can stand on its own, familiarity with its predecessors adds depth and richness to an important saga. (author's note, glossary) (Fiction. 11+)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.51(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

From The House of Djinn

Selma led her to the doorway of the beautiful hand-carved marble summer pavilion that stood in the center of the courtyard, and ducked through the entry first. Mumtaz followed, and again her eyes had to adjust. A small figure stood in the middle of the spacious pavilion lit by the sun filtered through the intricate latticework of the screens that formed the walls. Mumtaz took two steps forward.

“My Mumtaz,” said Shabanu and held her arms open. Mumtaz turned her head toward Selma, not quite believing her eyes and ears.

“Is it my mother?” she asked Selma, who nodded, her face opening in an encouraging smile. Mumtaz looked back toward her mother in disbelief, unable to move. For a moment she just stared.

“I’ve waited so long to see you,” said Shabanu, moving toward her daughter. “I couldn’t tell you I was here, and all the while I was living just to see you again.” Mumtaz couldn’t find her voice and her feet felt planted in the stone floor. Shabanu approached her slowly and put her arms around Mumtaz. “I’ve dreamed of holding you every minute since the last time,” Shabanu said.

“I don’t understand!” Mumtaz said, unaware that tears streamed down her face. She stood rigidly and Shabanu continued to hold her. “You’ve been here all this time?” Mumtaz asked. “And you let me believe you were dead?”

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