Red, White, and Whole

Red, White, and Whole cover
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

By Rajani LaRocca
Quill Tree, 2021
224 pages

Ages 9-12

Middle schooler Reha is the American-born daughter of parents from India; a beloved only child who often feels caught between her parents–especially her mother’s–more traditional expectations and her own American identity. She moves easily between friends at school during the week and friends in the Indian immigrant/first-generation community on weekends. She loves visiting her extended family back in India. But she’s frustrated by other things, like the fact that even though her dad convinces her mom to let Reha attend her first school dance, her mom’s disapproval is obvious. Reha loves her parents and knows they love her, but wishes she could explain to her mom that she needs to fully embrace and express both the American and Indian aspects of who she is. In this novel-in-verse set in 1983-84, the “red, white, and whole” of the title references both Reha’s identity and blood cells, which become critical after her mom is diagnosed with leukemia. Both of these dimensions of the plot are given space to beautifully and movingly unfold and align, even as other aspects of Reha’s life, including her sweet first more-than-friendship relationship with classmate Pete, also develop. In a story about family, identity, what is lost, and what is found, Reha discovers that her mom has seen and understood her all along. ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center