An Impossible Thing to Say

An Impossible Thing to Say cover
An Impossible Thing to Say by Arya Shahi

By Arya Shahi
Allida / HarperCollins, 2023
410 pages

Age 12 and older

Iranian American Omid lives with his family in Tucson, Arizona, in 2001. At the private high school he attends, Omid is shy and lacks confidence. But he hits it off with new student Emily (white) and the two convince each other to try out for the school play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Emily is cast as Titania and Omid is cast as Bottom, a role he’s excited to play even though he also wishes he got the role of Emily’s lover. Omid is also getting to know his grandparents, Maman Joon and Baba Joon, who’ve just emigrated from Iran. He feels challenged, in a good way—to speak more Farsi, to understand their lives, including the oppression they faced in Iran for their Baha’i faith. (Omid’s father came from a Muslim family, although he is no longer devout.) With the events of 9/11 and its aftermath playing out in the background, intense feelings begin to overwhelm Omid, especially after Baba Joon, who has shown signs of increasing unhappiness, disappears; and his crush on Emily leads to him punching Geoff, the senior with whom she’s paired in the play and spending a lot of time. But his best friend Sammy (Black) has introduced him to rap, and after listening to Sammy’s playlists on repeat, Omid begins writing his own raps, processing his thoughts and feelings through his unique brand of English/Farsi spoken word poetry. This novel in verse about finding your voice has realistically messy, marvelously realized characters. ©2024 Cooperative Children’s Book Center