Book Review: The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
The Night Diary
Dial Books for Young Readers
Published: March 6, 2018
Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
The Night Diary is a touching piece of historical fiction following Nisha and her family as they flee the newly formed Pakistan for India following the end of the British Raj. Written in the form of letters to her late mother, the story details Nisha’s thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams as she watches the world around her change.
Nisha and her twin brother Amil live with their father and grandmother in the city of Mirpur Khas. What makes the twins unique is their heritage: Papa is Hindu, while Mama was a Muslim. This fact has not been incredibly relevant in Nisha’s life up until this point. Nisha’s best friend Kazi, a Muslim man who cooks for their family, gives her a diary. He knows there is much that Nisha has to say, but she is crippled with shyness. Writing allows her to release her emotions onto the page.
As England turns rule of the country back over to the people of India, the country becomes a hostile land where Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs cannot live in harmony. Instead, the country is divided into two portions: the Muslim Pakistan and the Hindu/Sikh India. Those living in the part not associated with their religion are forced to flee. This includes Nisha’s family who must leave the new Pakistani area of Mirpur Khas and move to the city of Jodhpur. On the journey, they face dehydration, starvation, ambush, and attack as they find their way to a new home in a newly formed nation.
Along the journey, Nisha finds more than a new home. She discovers more about herself, her dreams, and her desires. She finds her voice in her writing and discovers that who she is is not defined by her religion but by what is inside of her. This inspiring story is one of acceptance, love, and bravery. I would highly recommend The Night Diary for middle grade students who need to understand that it is not who you are or where you come from that defines you.