In the Key of Nira Ghani

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Pub Date Apr 09 2019 | Archive Date Apr 09 2019

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A Guyanese girl must find the balance between her parents' "old world" expectations and traditions while pursuing her dream of being a great trumpeter in this contemporary, coming-of-age story.

Nira Ghani has always dreamed of becoming a musician. Her Guyanese parents, however, have big plans for her to become a scientist or doctor. Nira's grandmother and her best friend, Emily, are the only people who seem to truly understand her desire to establish an identity outside of the one imposed on Nira by her parents. When auditions for jazz band are announced, Nira realizes it's now or never to convince her parents that she deserves a chance to pursue her passion.

As if fighting with her parents weren't bad enough, Nira finds herself navigating a new friendship dynamic when her crush, Noah, and notorious mean-girl, McKenzie "Mac," take a sudden interest in her and Emily, inserting themselves into the fold. So, too, does Nira's much cooler (and very competitive) cousin Farah. Is she trying to wiggle her way into the new group to get closer to Noah? Is McKenzie trying to steal Emily's attention away from her? As Farah and Noah grow closer and Emily begins to pull away, Nira's trusted trumpet "George" remains her constant, offering her an escape from family and school drama.

But it isn't until Nira takes a step back that she realizes she's not the only one struggling to find her place in the world. As painful truths about her family are revealed, Nira learns to accept people for who they are and to open herself in ways she never thought possible.

A relatable and timely contemporary, coming-of age story, In the Key of Nira Ghani explores the social and cultural struggles of a teen in an immigrant household.

Amy Mathers Award Winner
MYRCA Award Nominee
R. Ross Arnett Award Nominee
American Library Association YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
Red Maple Award Nominee
Red Maple Honour Book
Barnes & Noble’s Top 25 Most Anticipated Own Voices Novels
Chapters-Indigo Most Anticipated Teen Books
Junior Library Guild Selection
CCBC Best Pick for Kids & Teens
CCBC Red Leaf Literature
OLA White Pine Teen Committee Summer Reading List
A Guyanese girl must find the balance between her parents' "old world" expectations and traditions while pursuing her dream of being a great trumpeter in this contemporary, coming-of-age story.


Advance Praise

"Moving, uplifting and written with a sharp sense of humor that had me laughing out loud more than once. Everyone who has ever felt like an outsider will relate to Nira's social struggles. The relationships between Nira and her family are lovingly drawn, and both the warmth and the challenges ring true."

—Robin Stevenson, award-winning author of A Thousand Shades of Blue and PRIDE: Celebrating Diversity and Community

A love-letter to complicated families and the challenges of the immigrant experience, In the Key of Nira Ghani is sparkling, soaring and soulful -- a devastatingly authentic, pitch-perfect story of longing and belonging.

—Allison Hughes, author of Hit the Ground Running

"Moving, uplifting and written with a sharp sense of humor that had me laughing out loud more than once. Everyone who has ever felt like an outsider will relate to Nira's social struggles. The...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9780762465477
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

Average rating from 52 members

Featured Reviews

A gorgeously-written book that delivers a powerful message. With a multilayered protagonist, lyrical writing, and a captivating plot; this book will enthrall you. This novel deals with an important issue and handles the nuances of marginalized culture. I highly recommend!

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Such a powerful novel with such a strong message. This book reminded me a lot of The Hate You Give for the theme of standing up for what you believe is right and fighting for your dreams. Nira's tenacity and bravery is very inspiring and motivating to the young reader in teaching them to pick their battles and fight until the very end. The world is what you make it.

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. This will be definitely considered for our YFiction collection at the library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

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This book is a hidden gem! It is the story of the brown-skinned immigrant child trying to fit in but still please the parents. Nira is Indian, from Guyana, living in Canada. She loves jazz music but her parents want her to be a doctor. She also feels pressure fr9m her rich cousins and from being the only brown child in school. She is a wonderful protagonist!

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In the Key of Nira Ghani by Natahsa Deen, 304 pages. Running Press Teens, April 2019. $18.

Language: PG-13 (22 swears, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G



Nira is barely making it through high school, with only Emily as her friend and Georgia, her pocket trumpet, as solace. But things are changing – Noah, the local BMOC, and McKenzie, Nira’s chief tormentor, are horning in on the duo for some reason. Even Farrah, her rich, stuck-up cousin, seems to be hanging around more. Between rocky friendships and the weight of her family’s expectations, Nira turns more to her music, but there is a chance for disaster.

I like Nira quite a lot. Nira’s story is similar to many other previous stories about kids whose parents don’t want to leave any room for them to grow up and away and friendships that can – sometimes in good ways and sometimes away from each other. Who I don’t like is the jazz band teacher at her school – he is callous man who probably drove more kids away from performing than her did encouraging them to perform. An easy read to enjoy.

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

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Nira is the only child of Guyanese immigrants in Canada. Her grandmother lives with her family, and her perfect cousin Farah and Farah's parents live nearby. Like many immigrants, both sets of parents are deeply invested in their children's education and success. It's not easy being either kid, but of course both think the other has it better.

Nira's particular challenge is that rather than wanting to be a doctor, like her parents pressure her to be, she wants to play trumpet. Trumpet! Farah's dad is more successful than Nira's, and Farah goes to private school and has a chorus of "Farahbots" following her around, where Nira has just one friend, Emily. As the story begins, Nira is worried that she's losing even Emily.

Good and bad things happen, and a very bad thing, but you can handle it because you're pulling for Nira, and eventually for Farah, too, and for the girls' tea-pushing grandmother.

The girls are high school juniors, but this book is suitable for middle grades readers.

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I received an Advanced Copy via Netgalley in exchange for an objective review.

I was born in Guyana, so I was intrigued to read a YA title featuring a Guyanese protaganist named Nira. She’s an opinionated, self-centered high school student in Canada frustrated with her immigrant parents strict academic rules. Study. Study. Study. Nothing else! But Nira loves the trumpet. And she’s a talented, untrained trumpet player to boot!

The struggle with her immigrant parents and fitting in at school is an experience well-described by the author. I didn’t mind the scattered transitions as I felt this was reflective of the chaos of being a teenager. Nira’s relationships with her friend Emily and her cousin Farah, as well as her parents, changes throughout the novel, also reflecting the ups and downs of a teenager. Her one respite is her relationship with her grandmother, who she has to share with Farah. When Nira finds out Farah’s family secret, she learns why her grandmother treats Farah the way she does.

Every little thing is heightened in Nira’s teenage mind, which makes you want to scold her yourself as a reader. Many times, she acts like a “ninny” as Farah her cousin calls her. I found myself disliking her choice of words in moments, but rooting for her to change for the better. In the end, it takes a tragedy for her to see the light while her other relationships are wrapped up and tied up in a neat bow. Overall, I was gently touched by Nira and her sensitive nature, even if she did act like a “ninny” at times!

I appreciate the Guyanese cultural elements being sprinkled throughout the story without overtaking the focus on Nira’s character arc, although a bit more culture would have given me more connection to Guyana beyond the fact that the country is corrupt and poor, as described by Nira and her family.

There is a lot of exposition in the writing, which is a writing device that always needs to be balanced by authors. From what I read about the author, this is a personal story made into a YA novel. And she has other books! I’ll be rooting for her and looking forward to her future novels and seeing her writing evolve.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for providing the ARC to review!

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This book I am happy to say was heavy on humor and light on the high school drama. Which for me was wonderful!! I mean it is a young adult so you just kind of expect there to at least some drama and that's fine. But when authors go overboard with it is when I run the other way. This author did a great job with the overall parts of this one.

I will say that this is your run of the mill coming of age title with one twist. This one deals with a lot of culture and one girl's steps to make it in her new world and how she wants to be. I really loved learning about Nira's life and what she wanted for herself it was an eye-opening story that I hope more people check out.

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Nira Ghani’s voice pulled me right into her story. She's funny and fully three-dimensional. It’s easy to empathize with both her struggles be the good daughter her parents want and her aspirations to fight for her own dreams.

I found it ironic that Nira feels invisible at school, where she'd love to make more of a mark, yet wishes she was more invisible at home, where the aspirations of her whole family fall heavily on her shoulders. Expectations are so high that every test grade and the use of every minute of her time is a topic of conversation.

The family's Guyanese culture fills the book with warmth and color, from the arguments about buying bargain (but uncool) jeans versus when it's reasonable to splurge on quality, to the tea Grandma makes to sooth every conflict. Nira's emotions throughout are so genuine that anyone will be able to relate to their own family's money battles and feel understood.

Highly recommended.

I will post this review on Goodreads now. It will go up on on 3/28 along with posts on Twitter and Instagram, and I'll upload it to Amazon and Barnes & Noble on pub day.

Thanks for the e-arc!

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