Children’s

Mira in the Present Tense

Sita Brah­machari
  • Review
By – February 14, 2014

Mira in the Present Tense is a beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed com­ing-of-age sto­ry, com­plete with rich­ly delin­eat­ed char­ac­ters who are wor­thy of the reader’s respect. Mira is a mem­ber of a close fam­i­ly, con­sist­ing of her Indi­an moth­er, her Jew­ish father, her younger broth­er Krish, and her baby sis­ter Laila, plus sev­er­al aunts and uncles, and her spe­cial grand­moth­er, Nana Josie. Her rela­tion­ship with Nana Josie is espe­cial­ly close. Josie is beau­ti­ful, artis­tic, rebel­lious and out­spo­ken; she loves col­or and fab­rics and fin­ish­es the family’s clothes with strik­ing trims. She is also cur­rent­ly very ill with can­cer and choos­es to order a cus­tom-made cas­ket for her­self so that she can be involved in prepa­ra­tions for her end. Grand­ma and Mira paint the cas­ket with bright col­ors com­plet­ing a pic­ture of the sea with its waves, with a dol­phin leap­ing out of the waves.

An ear­ly morn­ing writ­ing group of Mira’s peers allows us to meet a group of four sensi­tive pre-teenagers, includ­ing a fas­ci­nat­ing and smart boy from Rwan­da who has sur­vived the ter­ri­ble fight­ing there, but has lost his nuclear fam­i­ly. Through Jide, Mira is exposed to politi­cal and human inequities and learns to ap­preciate the strength that sur­vivors bring with them. She is also for­tu­nate to devel­op a close boyfriend rela­tion­ship with him. The teacher of the writ­ing group, Pat Print, is an open and car­ing adult who empow­ers her stu­dents and treats them in a respect­ful fashion.

Mira cross­es from child­hood to increased matu­ri­ty through the pro­gres­sion of the sto­ry. She gets her peri­od for the first time, deals with bul­ly­ing, and bonds with her Nana dur­ing her grandma’s final days in a hos­pice. The read­er gets to share Mira’s deep­est and most pri­vate thoughts on a reg­u­lar basis by read­ing the diary that Mira keeps. There are Jew­ish pro­tag­o­nists but no sig­nif­i­cant Jew­ish con­tent in the book. It is a beau­ti­ful, well-writ­ten nov­el that will appeal to read­ers and is recom­mended for ages 1014.

Shelly Feit has an M.L.S. and a Sixth-year Specialist’s Cer­tifi­cate in infor­ma­tion sci­ence. She is the library direc­tor and media spe­cial­ist at the Mori­ah School in Engle­wood, NJ.

Discussion Questions