________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 8. . . .October 22, 2010.


Under the Moonlit Sky.

Nav K. Gill.
Toronto, ON: Napoleon, 2010.
345 pp., pbk., $15.95.
ISBN 978-1-894917-99-5.

Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.

Review by Kay Weisman.





A separate Punjab was already promised during the time of Partition. India has just not delivered on that promise. But of course they do not want to give up that land now. Besides, separation is not what Punjabis or Sikhs were calling for. Later, it turned into a separatist discussion, because the central government had already painted Sikhs as separatists. The demands were for greater equality, to address diplomatically the issues that concerned the land. For example, Sikhs are not even legally recognized. We are still categorized as Hindus. Reforms were needed, but through discussion and appeals, as was the initial course of action. However, the government did not allow it.

Upon learning that her father has a secret wife and son in India, recent Canadian university graduate Esha pushes him away. Her mother hints that all is not as it appears, but then Esha's father dies accidentally before the whole truth can be revealed. Honoring her father's deathbed request, Esha travels from BC to Delhi, India, to scatter his ashes at Kiratpur and meet her Sikh relatives. She arrives to a mixed welcome: her grandmother and sister-in-law are welcoming, but her "brother" Ekant is rude and domineering. When he refuses to accompany her to Kiratpur, Esha tries to go on her own and is kidnapped and assaulted in the process. Embarrassed by her missteps, she tries harder to fit in, befriending a young girl who is preparing for her wedding.

     Gill does a good job describing Delhi and its Sikh community of 1984 as well as explaining Operation Blue Star (in which Gandhi's forces attacked the Sikh separatists hiding out in the Golden Temple in Amritsar), the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards, and the bloody, anti-Sikh riots that followed.

     Unfortunately, Gill's writing is not as notable as her subject. Readers are likely to become bogged down in long expository sections of historical and religious background; Esha's frequent use of profanity feels out of place in an otherwise religious household; and most characters are one-dimensional. Even Esha's search for her Sikh identity seems to result more from her falling for the angelic-and equally "hot"-Angad, (who miraculously appears to save the headstrong Esha from several incidents of needless danger) than from any real spiritual growth. Those looking for a story of a western teen coming to terms with her Sikh identity may prefer Neesha Meminger's Shine, Coconut Moon (2009), set in the aftermath of 9-11.

Recommended with reservations.

Kay Weisman is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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