Skunk Girl

Skunk Girl

3.5 4
by Sheba Karim

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If Nina Khan were to rate herself on the unofficial Pakistani prestige point system - the one she's sure all the aunties and uncles use to determine the most attractive marriage prospects for their children - her scoring might go something like this:

+2 points
for getting excellent grades

-3 points for failing to live up

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If Nina Khan were to rate herself on the unofficial Pakistani prestige point system - the one she's sure all the aunties and uncles use to determine the most attractive marriage prospects for their children - her scoring might go something like this:

+2 points
for getting excellent grades

-3 points for failing to live up to expectations set by genius older sister

+4 points for dutifully obeying parents and never, ever going to parties, no matter how antisocial that makes her seem to everyone at Deer Hook High

-1 point for harboring secret jealousy of her best friends, who are allowed to date like normal teenagers

+2 points for never drinking an alcoholic beverage

-10 points for obsessing about Asher Richelli, who talks to Nina like she's not a freak at all, even though he knows that she has a disturbing line of hair running down her back

In this wryly funny debut novel, the smart, sassy, and utterly lovable Nina Khan tackles friends, family, and love, and learns that it's possible to embrace two very different cultures - even if things can get a little bit, well, hairy.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up

Eleventh-grader Nina struggles with her Pakistani-Muslim identity and all that it entails. Her parents are strict and won't allow her to date. She also struggles with an abundance of dark facial and body hair, especially the stripe of hair down her back. Because she is the lone Asian student at her small high school in upstate New York, she feels isolated. Worse, her "supernerd" sister, Sonia, has left high academic expectations in her wake. When the boy she has a crush on shows an interest in her, Nina is both surprised and uncertain of what to do. She struggles with the values of her parents and her own feelings about right and wrong. She comes to a conclusion that leaves the story both satisfyingly unresolved and true to Nina's character. The author is nonjudgmental about Nina's decisions that are in conflict with her parents' beliefs, such as experimenting with alcohol, but through Sonia is also able to portray a character who is more comfortable abstaining. There are a lot of different plot elements, and the story is really more about Nina's development than about any single issue (such as her hirsuteness, as the title suggests). This is a solid choice for libraries in which Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big in This? (2007) and Ten Things I Hate About Me (2009, both Scholastic) are popular.-Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

Kirkus Reviews
"[T]here are only two types of people who spend their Friday nights in high school at home-Pakistani Muslim girls and future serial killers." Although Nina Khan was born and raised in small-town Deer Hook, N.Y., and has never visited her parents' homeland, she must adhere to their rigid cultural and religious beliefs, including no sleepovers, alcohol or dating. With dark skin, a wide bottom and an overabundance of body hair that makes her a "skunk girl," what are her chances of dating in the predominantly fair-skinned, closed-minded town anyway? But when Italian Asher transfers to her high school, she dreams of romance for the first time. In this debut, episodic novel, rife with smart, self-deprecating humor and set in the 1990s just as a phenomenon known as e-mail is gaining interest, Nina searches for identity and emerging independence while accepting the reality of her home life. For another look at a teen making tough choices as an outsider in her own country, pair with Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big in This? (2007). (Historical fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Sold by:
840L (what's this?)
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The Keera in My BrainI’m a giant in the sky flying over crimson-roofed houses, dressed in
a wool turtleneck and jeans. It’s hot and I’ve started to perspire, a
fine drizzle of sweat that falls onto the village below. That’s when I
see a group of elves walking single file. They’re carrying hot fudge
sundaes, lots of whipped cream and no cherry, just the way I like
them. As I’m about to swoop down and attempt to steal a sundae,
someone grabs my shoulder. It’s a ghost, and it knows my name.“Nina.”“Nina.” The ghost is still gripping my shoulder. My mother. Her
hair is tied tightly back and nearly every inch of her face is covered in
white cream bleach.“Wake up, beta,” she says. Her fingers smell like onion and chili
powder; she’s already made breakfast. She always likes me to start the
school year off on a full stomach. “It’s your first day of school!”
She says this as though I should be excited. Though it is indeed
the first day of my junior year of high school, none of the feelings
swilling around in my head bear any relation to excitement. In fact,
they’re pretty much the opposite of excitement. After spending much
of the summer reading the two SAT prep books my parents had
bought me, it’s easy to come up with possible antonyms. Unenthused.
Disinterested. Reluctant.My mother shakes her head. “Sonia was always so excited to start
a new year of school, but you never want to get out of bed.”
I sit up. “I’m awake now, Ma. Happy?”“I made you an omelet,” she says. “Hurry up before it gets cold.”
And so I rise, and so begins another year. Another year of social
exile, another year of not fitting in, another year of not measuring up
to the legacy left by my sister, Sonia, another year of wishing I were
someone else, someplace else. Who on earth would be excited about
that?My father’s in the kitchen and extends his arms out wide as soon
as he sees me. I brace myself. He’s a small man, but bearlike in his
affections, often testing the capacity of my lungs to withstand intense
pressure in the form of zealous embraces, though as I’ve become
older, the duration of these embraces has lessened. “Nina!” he booms
cheerily, squeezing me for a second before letting go. It’s a rare
moment when my father isn’t in a merry mood. If we were white and
Christian, he’d be one of those dads who dress up as Santa Claus
every Christmas. “Ready to ace calculus?”“I’m not taking calculus till next year, Dad,” I tell him. His forehead
furrows. Sonia, of course, started calculus in her junior year,
which is probably why he looks so confused.“Don’t worry, you will be soon!” he says, as if calculus were some
major milestone every teenager aspires to achieve.My father has no surgeries scheduled at the hospital this morning,
so after we eat my mother’s omelets he offers to drive me to school,
which is fine with me since I don’t have my license yet and it’s embar-
rassing to be seen stepping out of a yellow school bus when you’re a
junior in high school.As soon as we get in the car my father puts on his favorite kind of
music, qawwali, Sufi mystical music. Sometimes, when he gets really
into it, he sings along and does this gesture with his right hand, like
he’s unscrewing a lightbulb. But today he stays still. It’s a little too
early in the morning for musical theatrics, even for my father.We drive past rows of houses with small yards and swing sets and
the occasional inflatable pool, and stop at the light in front of the old
roller rink, which was shut down a few years ago and has been abandoned
ever since, weeds and shattered glass blanketing the steps to
the entrance. Back in 1986, when I was in fourth grade, this roller rink
was the epicenter of the social scene. I used to hate having wheels on
my feet. When I did go roller-skating I’d hold on to the wall that bordered
the rink as the other kids raced by me, skating hand in hand, or
backward, or both. Mostly when I went I sat around with my friends
Bridget and Helena, and sucked on red and green ice pops, the kind
wrapped in plastic that you squeezed from the bottom up.We take a left and then a right onto Main Street. The words “Welcome
to Deer Hook” are painted across the brick wall of a store, also
abandoned, which is next to another abandoned store, which is next
to the offtrack betting parlor, where already there are a few old men in
stained clothing loitering outside, the necks of liquor bottles sticking
out from the paper bags in their hands. Deer Hook’s Main Street has
a bad half and a better half, divided by the main intersection, the only
intersection on Main Street that has a traffic light.We cross the light
into the better half and I can tell you the order of what we pass without
looking: the movie theater, the Italian restaurant La Traviata, the
Ming Dynasty Chinese takeout place, the pizzeria, the taxidermist
shop with the stuffed moose head in the window. I’ve spent my whole
life in this town and nothing here has really changed, except for some
businesses shutting down and never reopening, like the roller rink. In
this town, things aren’t reborn or reinvented. Everything that doesn’t
stay the same either dies or goes away.For as long as I can remember I’ve pretty much hated Deer Hook,
population 11,250. When I was in middle school, I had a game that I
liked to play. I would close my eyes and touch a globe ever so lightly
with my finger. Then I’d spin it with my other hand. Wherever my
finger landed when the globe stopped spinning was where I was
going to end up living, and I would yell out the name of my future
home. “Australia! Egypt!” If it landed on someplace like Kansas or an
ocean, I cheated and spun it again. “Brazil!”One day, my father walked in as I landed on New Zealand. “New
Zealand!” I shouted.“What are you doing?” he asked. I explained. My father raised his
bushy eyebrows. “You have a keera in your brain,” he told me. Keera
is the Urdu word for “insect.” What my father meant was that I had
something in my brain that was giving me strange ideas, like wanting
to live halfway across the globe. This was a bit hypocritical, considering
he had moved halfway across the globe, but I didn’t mention this,
because he would have said, “That’s different.” Instead I imagined
the keera in my brain. He was a friendly-looking insect, like a cricket,
with big, powerful green eyes that could see the world beyond Deer
Hook, beyond Albany and New York City, all the way to New
Zealand.My father pulls into the circular driveway in front of Deer Hook
High, a U-shaped one-story building with a statue of Henry Hudson
in front of the entrance. There’s a ton of people milling around, talking
and laughing, most of them familiar. Huddled together by the
statue is a group of nervous freshmen. “Have fun!” my father says.
My fingers tighten around the door handle. Once I exit this car,
there’s no going back. It’s not that I hate high school, it’s just that I
wish it would hurry up and end already. But I suppose to understand
this, you have to understand the story of my life thus far. The dread
I’m now feeling is a culmination of years of dealing with things that
end in “shun,” at least phonetically: repression, suppression, exclusion.
My name is Nina Khan, and growing up, there were two things
that especially plagued me. The first was my sister. Excerpted from Skunk Girl by Sheba KarimCopyright © 2009 by Sheba Karim.Published in April 2009 by Farrar Straus GirouxAll rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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