If I Tell You the Truth

HarperCollins/Harper. Jan. 2021. 464p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062912640.
Gr 9 Up–Follow two women’s stories through 20 years of life. Assaulted and pregnant, Kiran leaves Punjab, India, to begin college in Vancouver, Canada. Rejected by those she trusts most, Kiran braves living undocumented as a single mother. Fast forward 18 years and her daughter, Sahaara, struggles to follow her dreams while ensuring her mother gains Canadian citizenship. As both women grapple with security, Kiran begins unraveling truths about her past that haunt the very fabric of their beings. This powerful sophomore novel explores womanhood over the span of two decades through the eyes of a mother-daughter pairing. The strength, resilience, and compassion Kaur seamlessly weaves between prose, poetry, and illustration allows readers to connect with and recognize themselves in Kiran and Sahaara. The journey they embark upon will spark much-needed conversations about being silenced, reconciling the past, and basic human rights. As Sahaara is given more information about Kiran’s past, she learns to respectfully listen to others’ stories; for a person cannot grow if they are unwilling to accept another’s reality. A list of trigger warnings precedes the novel, which includes endnotes about COVID-19, historical context, and the Canadian immigration process.
VERDICT A story that beautifully touches a multitude of tough topics, this one is for readers of S.K. Ali’s Saints and Misfits, Kekla Magoon’s Light It Up, and Maika and Maritza Moulite’s Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

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