Rukhsana Khan, with Uma Krishnaswami and Elisa Carbone,
Many Windows: Six Kids, Five Faiths, One Community
Napoleon & Company, 2008.
Award-winning writer Rukhsana Khan teams up with authors Uma Krishnaswami and Elisa Carbone in Many Windows, a book of stories about six children of different faiths sharing one community.
TJ’s narrative snapshots open and close the circle of interlinked stories. The new kid in town, TJ is anything but ready to make friends. On the contrary: unable to connect, he is suspicious of people’s motives, and ready to take down anyone who crosses him.
The other five kids in the book are friends, in and out of school. Deepa, Natalie, Jameel, Stephanie and Benjamin, whose religious backgrounds are different, love to play basketball together, but since their friend Bani moved away they have had to play it “two to three.”
Deepa misses Bani terribly; Jameel is suspicious of his uncle, who is visiting from Pakistan to celebrate Eid ul Fitr with his family; Benjamin finds the perfect birthday gift for his mother at Natalie’s family’s jewelry store, where Natalie helps out; Benjamin dreads going to visit his forgetful grandmother at the nursing home but ends up connecting with her through a game of dreidel; Stephanie gets to bring home a homeless kitten to keep as a pet… Through their stories, sometimes told in the first, sometimes in the third person, we get a glimpse of their lives and their religious and moral beliefs.
When Christmas Day comes, which Stephanie’s family celebrates, all the kids go help out at a Soup Kitchen. Even TJ has come to help. Or has he? TJ observes the group of friends: “They are a team even when they are not playing basketball.” His parents have gone out for Christmas dinner without him. He has really gone to the Soup Kitchen for the meal, but afraid of what his classmates will think, he doesn’t set things straight when they thank him for coming to help - and ends up helping indeed.
With chapters focusing on each of the six kids and an information section on the religious celebrations they observe (Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr, Diwali, Hanukkah, Buddha’s Birthday, Christmas), the book ends with the kids playing basketball - finally three on three again - suggesting that TJ is finally ready to make friends and embrace his new community.
Many Windows is a book that will introduce children to the importance of being part of a community whose members respect and value one another–a gentle and crucial message our youth would benefit from finding in other contemporary stories.