Red, White, and Whole


MG & Up

  • Bicultural Kids
  • Indian Culture
  • Parents
  • Cancer
  • CW: Parent Death

Rajani LaRocca


This beautiful novel in verse set in 1983 is narrated by Reha, whose parents moved from Bangalore. Reha is sometimes frustrated that she can’t do the “typical American” teen thing, and feels like her mother in particular doesn’t understand her.

Reha convinces her parents to let her attend a dance at school, and at the end of the most magical and freeing night of her life it all comes to a crashing halt when she learns her mother is extremely sick and in the hospital. Convinced that she missed signs of the illness because of her preoccupation with fitting in and being a fashionable American teen, Reha begins to focus on the tasks that her parents prioritize like academic performance and taking their Hindu religion more seriously in hopes that it will help cure her mother.

This book is gorgeously written, and I really like that the conflicts which arose didn’t erupt into loud shouting matches and storming out of houses. The family clearly cares dearly for each other, and much of Reha’s conflicts and uncomfortable feelings are internal. Even if readers aren’t bicultural like Reha, there is much to be gained from reading this tender portrayal of a family (and not just the excellent descriptions of trendy 80’s clothing) that navigates Indian culture and American identity.

This book was kindly sent by HarperKids and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to review it. All opinions and decision to review is my own!

Rajani LaRocca

From her website: “Rajani was born in Bangalore, India and immigrated to the U.S. as a baby. I spent most of my childhood in Louisville, Kentucky.

I attended Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, and trained in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. I’ve been working as a primary care physician since 2001. I live in eastern Massachusetts with my wonderful husband, our two brilliant kids, and an impossibly cute dog.

I’ve always been an omnivorous reader – cereal boxes, comic books, fortune cookie fortunes, magazine articles, and, of course, novels. The books I read as a child helped shape who I am today in ways that I’m still discovering. Books inspired me to pursue medicine as a career; books made me yearn to live in different worlds; books helped me consider what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. I still love realistic fiction with puzzles or riddles (like The Westing Game), realistic fiction with a touch of magic (like A Wrinkle in Time), and full-blown sci-fi and fantasy (like The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter series). I also love anything to do with Shakespeare. I believe that promoting diversity in children’s literature leads to empathy, and empathy makes the world a better place.”

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