Thursday, March 14, 2024

Drawing Deena, by Hena Khan

Pakistani-American Deena is a good artist and her friends are always raving about her drawings.  But she isn't really sure and she wishes there was money to pay for art classes so she really could become good.  But money is tight.  Deena knows this because her parents fight about it all the time.  And there are other priorities like the dental work that Deena needs for her teeth grinding and like her mother's failing clothing business.  It's causing Deena to lose sleep and she has trouble eating in the morning.  After a panic attack at school lands her at the nurse's station, the school recommends counseling and she finds it helpful.

Deena is also capable of solving her own problems.  With some help from her friends, they help set up a social media site for her mother's business.  They develop policies and plans for her mother's commercial success.  Along the way, Deena learns to stand up for herself and her family.

Full of lots of ethnic details (mostly about clothing and food), Khan's book is really about portraying a typical American malaise:  children stressing themselves sick.  What it doesn't do is spend much time on the treatment.  Rather, Deena just sort of recovers at the end, gaining assertiveness and confidence.  So, even though there's plenty said about Deena's condition and its prognosis, there's hardly anything on strategies for stress relief.  That makes her recovery something of an article of faith rather than a shared journey and sucks much of the pay-off out of the story.

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