Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James
Anju Melvin, used to being first in the classrooms of her hometown of Kumarakom in India’s southern state of Kerala, wins herself a scholarship for a year aboard at an elite private high school in Manhattan. But what clinches the award is not her own work, but that of her artistically gifted, although academically lacking, older sister Linno. Anju flies off to New York with Linno’s sketchbooks, settles in wide-eyed with a wealthy Indian American host family, and does everything to avoid art classes for fear of discovery. She convinces herself that she can earn redemption for her artful theft if she can manage to get a green card and sponsor Linno’s immigration to the abundant West.
Not surprisingly, Anju’s ruse is discovered and she is expelled. Still committed to getting her green card for Linno’s sake, Anju leaves her luxurious Manhattan digs, heads out to Jackson Heights, and moves in with a new friend, Bird, an older woman who has (not accidentally) befriended the bewildered Anju. Expect secrets to be revealed.
Meanwhile, back in Kerala, Linno rejects a blind suitor but accepts his sister’s offer of employment and quickly becomes the head designer for an international greeting card company. Her cut-out cards are so unique and accomplished that soon she’s posing in magazines. Linno is hardly pining for her lost art, or her immigrated sister … until news flies across the oceans that Anju has disappeared. And suddenly, both sisters must work desperately in their own ways toward reunion.
Tidbit: So here’s yet another example of how tiny the world is … I recently found out that debut author Tania James will soon become the sister-in-law of one of my very favorite former students ever in the whole wide world. That student is currently a med school superstar – which I found out from his Dean of Students who happens to be a friend, too! We’re all so related, it’s getting harder to keep the extended family in order, huh? Tania will be a guest at our much anticipated annual fall event, SALTAF 2009.