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An extraordinary and timely novel, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book, examines what it's like to grow up under surveillance in America. Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be...
An extraordinary and timely novel, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book, examines what it's like to grow up under surveillance in America. Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be...
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  • An extraordinary and timely novel, a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book, examines what it's like to grow up under surveillance in America.

    Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.

    Naeem is a Bangledeshi teenager living in Queens who thinks he can charm his way through anything. But then mistakes catch up with him. So do the cops, who offer him an impossible choice: spy on his Muslim neighbors and report back to them on shady goings-on, or face a police record. Naeem wants to be a hero—a protector. He wants his parents to be proud of him. But as time goes on, the line between informing and entrapping blurs. Is he saving or betraying his community?
    Inspired by actual surveillance practices in New York City and elsewhere, Marina Budhos's extraordinary and timely novel examines what it's like to grow up with Big Brother always watching. Naeem's riveting story is as vivid and involving as today's headlines.

    Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book, We Need Diverse Books
    Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor Book
    YALSA Best YA Fiction for Young Adults

    "A fast-moving, gripping tale." —SLJ, Starred

Excerpts-

  • From the cover

    Chapter 1

    I'm watched.

    There's a streetlight near my parents' store, and I hear the click, a shutter snapping as I round the corner. My gaze swivels up, but there's nothing. Just a white-eyed orb, a lamp, ticking. The dim sky floating behind. I shiver, tell myself it's all in my head. Nothing.

    Click. Click.

    Hunching my shoulders, I hurry down Thirty-Seventh Avenue, the sweat warm against my sweatshirt hood—past the thin shed of a shop with glittery bangles and cheap plastic frogs swimming in plastic tubs, past Mr. Rahman's table of beads hung on metal hooks, folded prayer rugs and little engraved Qurans. He, along with the other uncles who stand on the street, scans me, disapproving. They know. I'm up to no good. I'm not working in my parents' little store, as I should be.

    I did spend most of the afternoon there, my stepmother hovering by the cash register, pretending to tally the day's earnings, but really she was grazing me like a worried searchlight. Her pencil tapping the side of the register. I know that look. I see you.

    Usually when it isn't busy in the store, and I've finished tying up the old newspapers and moving around the milk cartons, I sit on a crate in the back, next to the humming refrigerator, textbook balanced on my knees. But today it was hard to focus. My brain danced; I got antsy, thinking of where I'd rather be.

    The store was quiet. Only one customer—a desi guy, tweed jacket, jeans, blowing on his Starbucks coffee. He comes in a lot. "You have Post-its?" he asked. My stepmother shook her head. Disappointed, he bought some Tic Tacs.

    Then my phone vibrated against my thigh. I always keep it on silent when I'm in my parents' store. Meet me at the mall 4:30, Ibrahim texted. Urgent! It's always urgent with Ibrahim.

    Slamming the book shut, I jerked up from the crate. My concentration was shot. Whenever I hear from Ibrahim it's like a bowling ball cracking into the pins in my head, all my thoughts toppling over. There's no hope of picking my way through pre-cal equations.

    "Hey, Ma." I said this shyly, the way it always is between us. "I gotta go. Anything more you need?"

    She glanced at me, alarmed. The eraser on her pencil did a little bob. "What about studying?"

    "That's what I'm going to do," I lied. "Meet a friend. We've got pre-cal finals coming up."

    Here her expression went sad, wistful. "Calculus, yes," she sighed. "When I was in high school I am getting eighty-five in this subject."

    I feel bad for Amma. I call her Amma, as if she is my own mother, not my stepmom. She's always speaking English with me, not Bangla, trying to show how she was almost like an American-born, going all the way through twelfth grade, until her parents arranged a marriage to my father.

    I knew Amma just wanted me to keep her company. But I couldn't help myself. I needed to get out of that little gloomy corner, everything so dusty and sad. Even the lottery ticket flyer—the only reason folks come in here—is peeling off the wall. The boxes of sugar cubes that have sat on the shelf since the store opened up. Abba, who buys sugar cubes? I want to shout. He's lost track of what they're doing with this place. It kills me, seeing all the customers hurry into the store across the street, the one that has the fresh new awning and fancy lettering, plastic chairs outside, and is always changing its stock, offering discounts. Or their friends, who have gotten together and opened a food mart with huge fish tanks and a halal butcher. They have capital, my...

About the Author-

  • Marina Budhos is the author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction. Her novels for young adults are Watched, Tell Us We're Home, and Ask Me No Questions. Her nonfiction books include Eyes of the World: Robert Capa & Gerda Taro & The Invention of Modern Photojournalism, Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers and Sugar Changed the World, which she co-wrote with her husband, Marc Aronson. Budhos has received an EMMA (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and two fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has been a Fulbright Scholar to India and is a professor of English at William Paterson University.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 13, 2016
    A Muslim teen adrift in his post-9/11 Queens neighborhood makes a dangerous bargain in a stirring novel about coming of age amid intensive police surveillance and racial profiling. After 11-year-old Naeem travels from Bangladesh to Jackson Heights to live with his father, stepmother, and half-brother, he begins a slow slide from treasured firstborn to charming but failing slacker. By senior year, Naeem mostly spends time cruising around with his older friend, Ibrahim, who is the reason Naeem gets caught with stolen merchandise after a mall trip. Two NYPD detectives offer Naeem a deal: he can become everything his community fears—a watcher, a rat—or his shoplifting will become more than a stupid mistake. Naeem immerses himself in the Muslim community, feeding what seems like innocuous information to the police, unsure whether he’s the hero or villain in his own story. Through Naeem’s perceptive, conflicted narration, Budhos (Tell Us We’re Home) captures the tug of youthful innocence leeching away as hard, unjust realities set in with a mix of apprehension and genuine emotion. Ages 12–up. Agency: Brandt & Hochman.

  • AudioFile Magazine "I'm watched," begins Sunil Malhotra's first-person narration. He conveys the paranoia of Naeem, a Bangladeshi-born teen living in post-9/11 Queens. Malhotra fleshes out Naeem's fear, frustration and anger. His parents' store is failing, and his devotion to school is flagging. He finds release from spending time with his eccentric, daring friend, Ibrahim. Malhotra sets the emotional tone so clearly that listeners understand why Naeem takes risks in this dangerous relationship. His innocence is just as clear, especially when he's apprehended by police for a shoplifting incident engineered by Ibrahim. The threats of the police convince Naeem to become the kind of watcher he has scorned and feared in the past. Once Naeem begins spying on his Muslim neighbors, Malhotra sensitively portrays his increasingly conflicted feelings and difficult decision. S.W. � AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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