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Ask Me No Questions    by Marina Budhos order for
Ask Me No Questions
by Marina Budhos
Order:  USA  Can
Atheneum, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Aisha's dream is to become a doctor. Her Abba and Ma have brought her to America from Bangladesh so she can get into a good university and realize her dream. Aisha works hard and is smart enough to get a scholarship, but she must be a legal resident to apply. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, going to the INS to renew Abba's green card is out of the question. Even with only minor infractions on their visas, he would be jailed, detained or deported.

Told by Nadira, the younger sister, the story begins with the family driving to Canada to seek asylum. When they are refused at the Canadian border, they are forced to turn around and re-enter the US, and Abba is arrested. Ma stays in a shelter nearby, while Aisha and Nadira return to New York City where they move in with their aunt and uncle. They go back to school the next day telling no one what has happened.

Nadira and Aisha have never been close. Aisha is smart and moves quickly towards a future she has planned since she was eight years old. Nadira has no idea what she wants her future to bring. United by their frightening secret, they work together, brainstorming, writing letters to the INS and Homeland Security and visiting their lawyer. Nothing happens. No one is interested in their difficulties and their Abba remains in jail.

When the INS picks up their uncle and imprisons him, Aisha, who is being considered for valedictorian, sees her future crumble. Unless Abba is released and allowed to stay in the US or Canada, Aisha's dream of becoming a doctor will remain just a dream despite her hard work. Nadira tries to support her sister and looks for solutions to their problems, but how can a ninth grade student make a difference to the US government?

Although this is a work of fiction, the crackdown on illegal immigrants from certain countries and the investigation of Muslim communities is true. Nadira's and Aisha's story is based on these events. Through Nadira's eyes we are able to experience the fear, frustration and anger her family feels at being singled out because of a horrendous crime done by others, as well as the pride and courage it takes to go on.

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