- Many Windows: Six Kids, Five Faiths, One Community by Rukhsana Khan, Uma Krishnaswami, Elisa Carbone
- Published December 30, 2013 Napoleon and Co
In the midst of global turmoil, with people of various faiths in major conflict, three friends—a Muslim, a Christian and a Hindu—decided to write a book. Many Windows is a book about young people who are friends despite their religious differences. It’s a book about celebrations, that ultimately celebrates community. Many Windows is a collection of seven stories about six children who are in the same class at school, two white boys, a black girl, a Chinese girl, an Indian girl and a Pakistani boy. They are not necessarily friends, but they all come together in one commnunity at the end of the stories. Each story in the collection centres on a different celebration within the faith of that child. In the appendix, each of the celebrations is explained in more depth, as it is celebrated within that faith community: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism. Each story represents a window into the life of the child, or, from a different point of view, the child’s window looking out to the world.
This is a collection of seven stories about six children who are in the same class at school, two white boys, a black girl, a Chinese girl, an Indian girl, and a Pakistani boy. They are not friends, but they all come together in one community at the end of the stories. Each story in the collection centres on a different celebration within the faith of that child, and in the appendix at the back of the book, each of the celebrations is explained in more depth, as it is celebrated within that faith community: Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism.
Each story represents a window into the life of the child, or, from a different point of view, the child's window -- looking out to the world.
I loved this book, and I think it’s so relevant to most children’s school experiences today. So many children in the one class with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds, but not necessarily having much understanding of what those faiths are like…or even what other families are like.
Let me start by saying that this is a tiny book, the story part of it is only 65 pages long. It is published by a small publisher in the US, so just a heads up, to get it in Australia it is quite pricey. If you are an Ebook reader, it is available on kindle and much cheaper.
There are 7 stories in total, each story told by a different character, with one character having 2 stories, at the start and at the end of the book, bringing everything together.
Each of the stories focuses on a different child, and the more stories you read, the more the stories become intertwined. Rukhasana Khan did not write all of the stories in the book, she wrote 5 of the 7, but I will look at the book as a whole.
Because each story is short, I won't tell you too much about them, I will just give a brief teaser to each one.
The characters are:
Natalie a Buddhist, she works in her father’s jewellery store, an Important part of her story is a locket...that we see again somewhere else in the book.
Jameel a Muslim, his family is having a visit from his uncle, from Pakistan. There is some secret about his uncle...no one talks about it, but will Jameel find out the truth?
Deepa is Hindu and Diwali is her festival. Friendship is a strong theme in this story. The one person Deepa normally celebrates the day with is not with her this year.
Benjamin is Jewish - his grandmother is in a nursing home...she doesn't recognise Benjamin or his family any more. But something about seeing Benjamin play with his dreidels, sparks a memory in her, a memory of a family member who is no longer with them.
Stephanie is a Christian and It's Christmas Day. In Stephanie's story we see all of the other characters come together.
I like that the stories aren't 'about' religion or culture, they are just stories about people, they don't stop and explain anything within the story, it's just ‘there'
They mention Ramadan, but they don't go on to explain what that is, Similarly with other aspects, Like the food, the Luddos in Jameel's story or puris and jalebi in Deepa's.
Other things like the dreidels in Benjamin's story. They're an important element to the stories, but it's never explained what they are... So it makes the reader want to find out more.
As mentioned earlier, at the back of the book there is more detail on each of the faiths, as well as the specific celebrations mentioned in the stories, so you don't have to go far to get the extra information.
TJ is the other character and he has the first and last story in the book, and his, for me, are the most powerful stories.
In the first story, and you get the feeling that TJ has a bit of attitude…it’s his first day in a new school, and he does not seem happy to be there. When he gets pulled up by the teacher, she asks him questions about his behaviour like he has a choice…this isn’t something TJ is used to, and it throws him a bit.
His new classroom is a No Put Down Zone, and this rule applies to the yard as well, so when some kids tease TJ at lunch time, he shoves one of them, gives them a bloody nose and ends up on the principal’s office. When he explains that the kids were teasing him first, Mrs Williams says that’s unacceptable and they must apologise to TJ…
TJ is shocked that he was listened to, and that the other kids were made to apologise. TJ doesn’t get off lightly though, and he still gets detention…that’s OK by him though, it’s fair.
The book ends with TJ. We start where we began. What I get the most from this book is that TJ is the character I want to know more about. As a reader we get a glimpse into his life, and it’s pretty bleak, I just want to know that he will be ok. All of the other stories are about family and faith, but not TJ’s. The contrast between his life and those of the other characters is stark. That's why his stories work so well starting and ending the book, it puts all of the other stories into perspective.
The strongest theme that I get from all of the other stories would be family. Each character has a strong connection to family, and within that family they also have their faith, but for me family is the key. It’s obvious from what we read about TJ that this is what he is missing, and there is hope that maybe the new friends he has, have gone some way to fill the emotional void in his life.
This book is exactly what the title suggests, a window into the lives of these children. Yes, it is a book about culture and faith, but it's also about family, family histories, friendship and community...oh and basketball... basketball is another thing that joins these kids together...but you can read the book to find out more about that.
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