Cover Image: The Partition Project

The Partition Project

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Member Reviews

I have yet to read a book by Saadia Faruqi that I don’t love. She has such a talent for presenting difficult topics in a way that is accessible for children, and also writing about situations that they can relate to such as sibling rivalry and friend troubles. I did not know about the Partition and was glad to learn so much about it along with Maha. I will definitely be adding this book to my library because I think they will be able to see themselves in it. Looking forward to Faruqi’s next book!

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Wow! This book has heart ❤️. I read this book in one day and loved the connection between history and today. Maha is a true to life middle schooler who makes mistakes with her friends, follows her journalistic passion and begins to notice the importance of her Dadi moving in with the family. Beautifully written.

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book.

I loved The Night Diary. The story of Partition is so important, and I really was looking forward to this book. This book, though had as many misses as hits, and overall, I was disappointed. I loved the grandmother's teachings of their faith, and in particular of fasting and Ramadan. It's something that many religions can relate to. I didn't love how Ramadan was alternately an incredibly empowering experience and an excuse for Maha. I love the stories her grandmother shared, but I hated the way Maha treated her friend, and wished that Ahmad was less of a throw away character when he could have brought so much to the story.

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I loved that this book gave a look at the Partition, a historical event I knew little to nothing about. And what a great story to introduce younger readers to history in an approachable way -- at least, in theory.

The issue(s) I had with this book, however, was that it was entirely too long. 400+ pages is long even for an adult or fantasy novel, and for a middle grade, it started becoming almost unreadable. It was hard to stay connected with the story, and I think it could have been edited for clarity and pacing. I also felt like the voice of the main character was a bit inauthentic (in terms of age/development) at times, a jarring cadence that took me out of the story.

Overall, an informative story with an important core, but not one I'd likely re-read. There are so many great middle grade books that connect young readers to history, and while I think THE PARTITION PROJECT has potential, I think it missed the mark on being a five-star read.

Thank you to Quill Tree Books and Netgalley for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

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Partition was something I hadn't even heard of until fairly recently, so I was riveted by this story. I like that it does more than just reveal a lesser known part of history. It really digs into the importance of cultural history and includes some messaging about responsible and sensitive journalism. With complex, relatable characters, this is a book well worth reading for young and old alike.

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Saadia writes out of a place for passion and desire of understanding. This novel follows Mahnoor as her Grandmother (Dadi) comes to live with her family in Texas. Eventually Mahnoor discovers Dadi's past through a journalism project and discovers a history worth telling.

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Maha isn't happy when she has to give up her room to her grandmother, Dadi. But she Don learns to appreciate not only her grandmother's cooking, but also her stories of her history. As a hopeful journalist, Maha wants to explore the truth - especially as she learns more about her heritage and her Dadi's experiences during the Partition.

Maha is an engaging character and her exploration of identity is very relatable. A well-written book that talks openly about important historical events.

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So much love for this book! I learned about the Partition which I knew little about. The way the author wove in tips on how to research a topic and become a journalist was brilliant. Watching the relationship unfold between Maha and her grandmother was touching. Students will like the combination of present day and the storytelling done through the Maha’s interviews about her grandmother’s childhood. I also enjoyed learning about Muslim culture.

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The Partition Project is about a very important historical event that displaced and killed millions of people. The main character is an aspiring journalist who gets an assignment to make a documentary. She makes one about her grandmother's experience in the Partition. Her grandmother's experience is a short amount of the book told in interview style. Most of the book is Maha's struggle to get people to acknowledge that Partition is important. Despite that, the book tells the reader very little about the actual event and its causes. I only started to enjoy this about halfway through, and it's over 400 pages.

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Maha is a middle schooler who is passionate about journalism. When her grandmother comes to stay with the family from Pakistan, Maha is less than enthused to have to give up her bedroom to her grandmother AND act as a kind of babysitter. But the stories that Dadi (Maha's grandmother) tells are more interesting than Maha would have imagined and when Maha's teacher asks the students to create a video documentary on a topic of their own choosing, Maha thinks her family history might have potential. Except that Maha is so focused on her documentary that she loses sight of her best friend. This is a terrific story that lots of kids are going to identify with and enjoy!

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It's a pretty good book! My only complaint is that the book was longer than it needed to be; if it was just slightly more snappy, it'd be perfect!

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Thank you to #NetGalley, Saadia Faruqi, and the publisher of the book for the eARC copy.

When Mahnoor's grandmother (Dadi) moves in with them from Pakistan, she is worried that everything in her life is going to be different. She has a huge journalism project where she has to film a documentary. She does not have time to babysit her Dadi.

As her Dadi adjusts to life in Houston and Mahnoor struggles to find a topic for her documentary the two of them start talking and Mahnoor learns more about her Dadi's life. Could Dadi's life story be the perfect topic for her documentary?

A sweet and moving middle grade read. The history was heartbreaking at times, but it was nice to see a grandchild connect with their grandparent to learn more about their life before they were a grandparent.

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Maha Raheem's life gets turned upside down when her Dadi moves into the Raheem household from Pakistan. Maha doesn't want to be a babysitter to her Dadi, she has more important things to do - like figure out the topic for her Journalism class! When her Dadi starts telling Maha about her childhood in northern India and the Partition that forced her to move to the new country of Pakistan, Maha realizes her Dadi is newsworthy.

Saadia Faruqi does an excellent job exploring family dynamics, history and how family history shapes who we are. The relationship that blossoms and blooms between Maha and her Dadi is beautiful to read about. There is such care when discussing the events of the Partition and how it continues to effect South Asian populations all over the world. This book really shines when Maha is connecting with her family and their culture.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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In a Nutshell: A middle-grade novel about a young Pakistani-American girl who learns about the traumatic Partition days from her grandmother. Liked the partition-related segments – some of the scenes were heartbreaking. But the writing was somewhat mixed. Regardless, I appreciate the effort of bringing this part of Indo-Pak history to a new audience.

Plot Preview:
Twelve-year-old Mahnoor has wanted to become a journalist for as long as she can remember. She loves facts and research, and can’t stand anything that stems from opinion instead of reality.
When she hears that her paternal grandmother – her ‘Dadi’ – is coming over from Pakistan to stay with them, she is not happy about having to give up her room and become Dadi’s “babysitter.” But once they begin talking, Mahnoor realises that Dadi’s memories of the Partition would be the perfect subject for the documentary she has to make for her media studies class. Thus begins the ‘Partition Project.’
The story comes to us in the first person perspective of Mahnoor, with some content written in interview script.

Few children’s novels focus on traumatic historical events, and even when they do, the topics are usually restricted to those that have had an impact on the Western world. However, the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 into two countries – India and Pakistan, which was further split many years later and the Eastern chunk became Bangladesh - by the Brit colonists forever changed the history, the geography, and the politics of this part of the world. The event is a shared trauma for all the three nations and its citizens, whether we were alive in 1947 or not. Till date, we feel the repercussions of this heinous split. So I am glad to see a middle-grade novel take up this part of history as its central focus, even if the execution of the plot was a mixed bag to me.

Bookish Yays:
💐 The intent: Thank you to the author for choosing this topic! The world needs to know what happens when such selfish actions were taken by the colonists without any concern for the local citizens. The ego of the politicians was the only winner.
💐 Dadi’s character: A typical South Asian grandma, she is stern yet loving. And an expert cook! Through her behaviour, she offers a genuine and positive glimpse of a traditional Muslim woman. The bond between her and Mahnoor, once it develops, is touching.
💐 Mahnoor’s friends: Kim – a Vietnamese American – and Ahmed – a newly-emigrated Pakistani, both add much to the story. Ahmed’s portrayal in particular has a great deal of authenticity to it. I also liked Mahnoor’s elder brother Talha, who had no qualms entering the kitchen and cooking – not something we see desi boys do often in fiction. (Or in real life!)
💐 The Pakistani-American representation: Not that I have first-hand knowledge of this, but the desi rep felt very accurate. The kids especially were a nice amalgamation of South Asian and American cultures.
💐 The Islamic representation: Again, I am an outsider, but based on what I know, the depiction of the Muslim people felt very genuine. There is too much explanation at times about their rituals and preferences, but I guess this is fine as the book is aimed at a crowd that knows barely anything about Islam except what they hear in the media, which is rarely complimentary.
💐 The food: What yummy delicacies! When I read books with desi food, I simply can’t stop salivating! In this one, Mahnoor’s Dadi is constantly cooking some scrumptious Pakistani dishes. Islamic food is among my favourite options here for nonveg cuisine, so this book created an urge to go to the nearest Muslim restaurant and binge!
💐 The author’s note: Succinct, yet impactful. I loved learning about the 1947 repository.

Bookish Mixed Bags:
🌹 The Partition Project: As most of the partition details come through Mahnoor’s interviews with Dadi and the other seniors she meets, we get a first-person rendition of the painful events resulting from the country’s split. Many scenes left me teary-eyed, though I already knew what happened during the partition. These stories are never easy to read. However, the book doesn’t go in detail into the why’s of the partition. Yes, the country was split, but merely offering a one-sentence reason isn’t fair or accurate. The partition was a direct outcome of the colonial powers’ decision, so why not clarify that part of history as well? It’s like telling a child about the events of the Holocaust without informing them what led to it. The cause is as important as the effect.
🌹 Mahnoor’s character: Mahnoor is tough to like for most of the book. While she is clever and ambitious, she is also judgemental, entitled, and selfish. She begins as the typical girl who thinks old people know nothing. It was nice to see her improve in behaviour and acknowledge her mistakes towards the end, but it took her way too long to reach that point.
🌹 The subplots: The story should have primarily handled the partition, but there are too many unnecessary subplots, such as the presence of a typical “Mean Girl” kind of classmate in Tiffany, Mahnoor’s abhorrence for all things fiction, the friendship struggles with Kim, and Mahnoor’s obsession with journalism. Some of these are handled well, but some were just annoying. The book also feels somewhat unstructured because of the superfluous topics.

Bookish Nays:
🌵 Character inconsistencies: Mahnoor loves facts, yet she takes ages to go to Google to learn more about the Indo-Pak partition. She doesn’t know Urdu basics such as the meaning of her name or of phrases such as ‘Inshaallah’, but she has read the whole Quran in Urdu! She claims to love research, but she has never bothered to research her own family history. Mahnoor’s parents are constantly shown as being too busy and uninvolved in their children’s lives, but they are also shown as taking out time whenever needed by their children – so are they uninterested parents or involved ones?
🌵 Plot gaps: The book raises many topics that aren’t addressed properly. Why did Dadi come over from Pakistan? When and why was Mahnoor’s dad adopted? (You can’t being up a character’s adoption status thrice and not give any further details of it!) The definition of halal was also incomplete, even though the word comes up multiple times in the book.
🌵 At 400+ pages, this is way too long for a middle-grade novel. The middle section of the book is somewhat tiresome and could have been trimmed. The scenes about Mahnoor’s parents forgetting about the documentary and her grandmother not realising that she was being recorded for an interview felt repetitive.
🌵 Mahnoor’s Ammi (mother) is an accomplished dietitician, yet she is shamed for not being able to cook at the same skill level as her mother-in-law. Why was this necessary? There are many scenes where Ammi is teased or insulted by the other family members, and she just grins and bears it. Comments about her shortcomings are passed even when she isn’t around to defend herself. Never right to do this, especially in a children’s book!

Despite my mixed feelings, I am still going to recommend this novel, and not just to people of Indian/Pakistani origin. Everyone needs to learn about the Partition. For the same reason that we need to learn about the Holocaust and the Vietnam War and the Holodomor and the ‘Black Death’ plague and the Depression and myriad other horrifying events of history. To learn from the errors of the past, to avoid the same mistakes in the present and to safeguard the future of the planet and our children.
This is my second book by this author, having earlier read and enjoyed her chapter book titled ‘Yasmin the Detective’. And because of how authentic she keeps the rep, I will continue reading her despite this mixed experience.
Recommended to middle-graders interested in learning about a not-so-known part of history, and to MG classrooms looking for a culturally inclusive, discussion-worthy book.

3.5 stars, rounding up because… you know… the desi heart cannot round it down.

My thanks to HarperCollins Children's Books and NetGalley for the DRC of “The Partition Project”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.

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The Partition Project is one of those books that seems simple at first but is packed with themes of family, heritage, childhood trauma, friendship, and personal growth and change. And author Saadia Faruqi weaves them perfectly together into an engaging and moving novel that would be a perfect classroom read.

The story unfolds through two voices — Maha’s and Dadi’s as she recounts her past.

Maha is a driven character who will not stop until she makes her mark. Unfortunately, she sometimes does this to the detriment of school and her friends. But Maha’s heart is in the right place, and it’s hard not to like her.

Dadi is harder to read. She’ll never be completely free of trauma from partition. It shaped the person she grew up to be. Through her interviews, you get a sense of the 12-year-old she once was, and through her interactions with Maha, she becomes a multilayered heroine.

Faruqi does an excellent job exploring two different time periods, providing a juxtaposition that makes it easier for readers to look beyond themselves. Her mentions to both The Night Diary, by Veera Hiranandani, and Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, provide further reading possibilities that tie into similar subjects.

The Partition Project is an excellent read. Faruqi’s writing is elegant and inviting. This is a book that will leave middle-readers and their parents feeling fulfilled.

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I have always maintained that my reviews are not personal, and for over 10 years, I kept to that. I recently made a public exception however, for Palestine. I cannot and have not checked every author, every illustrator, every publisher, or every agent, to see who has spoken up about the genocide, but there are a few prolific authors that are standards in the niche of Islamic fiction literature. Who have elevated our representation with a standard of quality and consistency across multiple age groups over the years, whose stature made their silence, seeming or actual, to the occupation, the apartheid, and the ongoing attempted erasure of a people and culture impossible to miss. No there is no standard or bare minimum, this is all emotion, and if you are thinking who am I to judge, or maybe I missed something, yes you are right. None-the-less it definitely caught my attention that an author who remained silent, wrote a 416 page middle grade book about partition, a historical event impossible to separate from colonization. I know the timeline for books to be published is not quick, but when I read the characters discussing that, "If we only read books by perfect authors, we'd read...nothing, I guess." It felt a little defensive, and while I never set out to shame anyone, I have written this disclaimer to hold to my word, and to acknowledge that as much as I have set out to write the remainder of this review as I would review any book, my own disappointment in the author, may show through. Literary wise the book is moving, heartfelt even, but the performative othering, the internalized Islamophobia, and the catering to a western gaze, are subtle, but undeniably there. Perhaps the biggest example is the word "British," the whole reason for partition, is only mentioned a grand total of six times.

Mahnoor, aka Maha, is in seventh grade, and her whole world has just flipped upside down. Her Dadi, her paternal grandmother, has just moved in from Pakistan, taking her room, and her free time. Plus Dadi is old and grumpy, and Maha is not amused. With parents that are too busy to spend time with her, Dadi slowly but surely starts to fill in a lot of pieces that Maha didn't know were lacking in her life. Through food and stories and the start of Ramadan, Maha learns about Islam, Pakistan, friendship, and with a school documentary assignment, partition. A historical event she had never heard about before, starts to be all she can think about. It also seems to hang over everything she encounters from a book on a novel study English assignment list, to the train in their neighborhood, everyone at the senior center, and even Texas history. With dreams of being a journalist, Maha's singular focus because almost obsessive, according to her friend Kim, but the more she learns, the more she changes. And the changes are for the better, even if there are some stumbles along the way, fighting with Kim, making Dadi runaway, calling out her parents preoccupation with work, missed fasts. The book has a happy ending though, as the unlikeable privileged Maha at the beginning, transforms to being someone the reader is cheering for at the end.

I am Pakistani-American, being half Pakistani and half American, the hyphen for me signals both my parents. So I was thrilled a year or so ago when I first heard about this book. I am a bit removed from partition because my father was the first in his family to be born in Pakistan, and my in-laws did not move from India until much later. That being said, I know it is a part of me, as all desis do, and was eager to read this middle grade book. Please note though, I am also white passing American (albeit with a hijab), so I can tell when I am being pandered to as well.

Do I feel the book did the topic justice? Absolutely not, by not discussing colonialism and British occupation, a huge part of the setup is conveniently ignored. It also is very placating of what the Muslims, Seikhs and Hindus seemed to want as Jinnah and Nehru are only name dropped once. Gandhi not at all. I get that the book presumably isn't about that, but by ignoring it all together, there is some intent there, possible watering down for a white audience, that doesn't sit right with me.

This book feels like it is written for non Muslims. The dialogues about being a good person even though they don't follow Islam as they should, and pray and fast and eat halal, seem like internalized Islamophobia, that is trying to normalize not practicing. When the text goes so far as to call those that do fast all 30 days "ultra-religious" it seems to walk back the numerous passages of Maha loving fasting and finding peace in prayer. The takeaway for a Muslim reader will be a little self doubt, for a non Muslim reader it will reinforce the labels of "those Muslims" and "extremists." It makes what many Muslims find basic faith requirements, come across as optional here in America, like taking off shoes when entering your house. With that being said though, the book does have a lot of heart, and in many places Islam and Pakistani culture are warm, but that warmth often comes through attempts to appeal to a non Muslim western lens. Similarly the stereotypes do as well. Pakistan is considered conservative, which is dismissed as meaning, "code for no swimsuits." Wow, a whole culture and religion, so easily labeled and stereotyped. Stings a bit, not gonna lie.

Maha's parents are not religious, so much of Maha's knowledge of Islam is coming from what she sees her Dadi do, pray, fast, read Quran, etc. Except, Maha knows how to read Quran, and pray, she just needs practice. So explain, how she doesn't know what inshaAllah means? This is just one example of inconsistency bumps in the text. At one point they eat iftar, and then a few hours later have dinner, I mean sure it is possible, but it seems weird. Her frail grandma runs away on a hiking trail? She wants the archive curators approval for her documentary and not her Dadi's? Overall, Maha rarely reads like she is 12. At the start when she is whining, is about it, the rest of the book she reads much much older.

Boy girl close friendships, angry mobs with guns, death, cholera, internalized islamophobia, talk of gods and demigods in Percy Jackson, mention of J.K. Rowling negative comments on trans community, fear.

I cannot in good conscious purchase, recommend, or even check this book out from the library. I received an advanced digital arc, but my heart is too heavy by the author's silence in the face of the atrocities occurring in front of us regarding Palestine.

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The Partition Project is a fabulous book for readers in 5th grade and beyond. Maha is a Pakistani American girl who is surprised, and not very happy, when her grandmother (Dadi) is moving to America and moving in with her. Maha has to give up her room and a lot of her free time for Dadi. At first, she resents this, but she quickly learns that Dadi has a lot to teach her and so many stories of her past to share. As Maha listens to Dadi's stories, she learns about her family's history, and the history of Pakistan. Readers will love going on this learning journey with Maha and will learn right alongside her and she finds out about the Partition and how it changed Dadi's life and the life of so many others! An engaging and wonderful read!

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The Partition Project started kind of slow for me, but it built to a lovely crescendo/climax at the end of the book. I loved all the characters, from Maha's family to the Senior Center folks to her school community. I think that a lot of middle grade readers will enjoy this one and hopefully be inspired more to learn about their own family's history.

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Middle Grade Contemporary/Historical Fiction.

I unfortunately hadn’t learned about the Partition until recently and when I saw this title on NetGalley I absolutely wanted to learn more and it being middle grade was like a great primer.

Maha is a seventh grader that is very very into becoming a journalist and is so excited that her elective credit this year is media studies. When she starts the school year her grandmother moves in with her family from Pakistan and Maha is asked to spend time with her on week nights and weekends. Maha is pretty resistant to babysitting her Dadi until Dadi tells her the memories she has surrounding the events of the partition. Maha is enthralled and wants to use these memories in her media studies documentary project.

I loved Dadi and the way she was able to teach Maha through her memories and her recipes. I loved the growth Maha had throughout the novel. It definitely had many side plots and I thought they were great and added to the overall story but I did like Dadi’s plot line the best. I would definitely read more from this author, they did a great job of teaching a tough topic with care.

Thanks to NetGalley and HarperCollins Children for an eARC.

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The Partition Project is a multilayered middle grade book that will appeal to all ages, not just its intended audience. Mahnoor is a 12 year old seventh grader who is passionate about journalism. When her Pakistani grandmother moves in with their family and takes over her bedroom, Maha is as resentful as any 12 year old would be. However, as she gets to know her grandmother, she learns about her heritage and the traumatic experiences and consequences of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. Maha almost obsessively figures out how to make Partition into a five minute documentary for school. She ends up with friend problems and school problems. She sees the previous lack of communication in her own family. This story is a slice of reality. I frequently found myself with tears running down my cheeks. This book is a winner on so many levels. I look forward to promoting it at my middle school library.

A bonus to this book is the other books mentioned. I have already read The Night Diary by Vera Hirandani and am happy I did because of the prior knowledge it gave me for this book. I also read Inside Out and back Again by Thanhha Lai, an important novel in verse that takes place during the Vietnam War. Mottled Dawn: Fifty Sketches and Stories of Partition by Sadat Hasan Manto is on my TBR.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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