I Am Kavi (Hardcover)
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Caught between two worlds—a poverty-stricken village and a fancy big-city school—a young Sri Lankan girl must decide who she really is and where she really belongs.
1998, Colombo. The Sri Lankan Civil War is raging, but everyday life must go on. At Kavi’s school, her friends talk about the weekly Top 40, the Backstreet Boys, Shahrukh Khan, Leo & Kate… and who died—or didn’t—in the latest bombing. But Kavi is afraid of something even scarier than war. She fears that if her friends discover her secret—that she is not who she is pretending to be—they’ll stop talking to her.
I want to be friends with these / happy, / fearless, / girls / who look like they / belong.
So I could also be / happy, / fearless, / and maybe even / belong.
Kavi’s scholarship to her elite new school was supposed to be everything she ever wanted, but as she tries to find some semblance of normalcy in a country on fire, nothing is going according to plan. In an effort to fit in with her wealthy, glittering, and self-assured new classmates, Kavi begins telling lies, trading her old life—where she’s a poor girl whose mother has chosen a new husband over her daughter—for a new one, where she’s rich, loved, and wanted. But how long can you pretend to be someone else?
This dazzling novel-in-verse comes from an astonishing new talent who lived through the civil war herself. Perfect for fans of Jamine Warga, Supriya Kelkar, and Rajani LaRocca, I Am Kavi centers a powerful South Asian voice, and stars an unforgettable heroine each and every one of us can relate to.
"KAVI'S COURAGE AND VOICE ARE NOT TO BE MISSED."—Reem Faruqi, award-winning author of Call Me Adnan, Unsettled, and Golden Girl
"TRIUMPHANT."—Dan Gemeinhart, #1 NYT bestselling author of The Midnight Children
"I LOVED IT!"—Nizrana Farook, award-winning author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
An Indies Introduce Selection
An Indies Next Pick
A School Library Journal Middle Grade Magic Selection
A Children's Book Council Hot off the Presses Selection
About the Author
Thushanthi Ponweera is an author and poet from Sri Lanka. Before daring to follow her dream of being published, she was a marketing specialist and entreprenuer. Her writing reflects the frustration she feels at the inequality and injustice she sees around her, and also the deep love she feels for her island home. She currently lives in Colombo with her husband and two children.
★ "Superb. . . . A moving coming-of-age story written in verse about understanding and embracing who you truly are."—The Horn Book, starred review
"Striking. . . . Skillfully captures the intensity of Kavi’s hope, doubt, shame, and determination as she negotiates her reality and her desires."—The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books
"A powerful and immensely readable look at a time period and place not often represented in books for children."—Teen Librarian Toolbox
"Riveting. . . . Ponweera employs spare but descriptive verse that perfectly captures the inner turmoil of a young girl wading her way through the complexities of family, friendship, identity, and emotions."—Booklist
"A stirring novel in verse. . . . Amid a historical setting informed by classism, colorism, and colonization, short reflective phrases and vivid cultural details bring out the nuanced story’s emotional depth and show the devastating impact of war on Kavi and her loved ones."—Publishers Weekly
"This book plunged me into the joys and turmoils of 1990s Sri Lanka, bringing with it all the poignancy of that time. A frequently heartrending coming-of-age story about friendship, love, class, and war. I loved it!"—Nizrana Farook, award-winning author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant
"I Am Kavi is a triumphant tale of a girl overcoming adversity and discovering her potential, while also refinding her roots. Readers of all ages will root for Kavi from page one. I loved it."—Dan Gemeinhart, New York Times bestselling author of The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise and The Midnight Children
"Powerfully written. . . . Kavi's struggle to fit in at her elite urban private school as a scholarship student from the war-torn countryside will resonate with readers dealing with the social pressures of middle school."—Lyn Miller-Lachman, author of LA Times Book Prize Winner Torch
"Lyrical. . . . Kavi asks big questions about her changing family, growing up in wartime, and what it means to be true to yourself. A beautiful, universal novel."—Laura Shovan, award-winning author of The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
"Written in lush and evocative verse, and set during Sri Lanka's civil war, I Am Kavi beautifully explores a much more personal battle: the struggle to know that you are loved, and to love yourself. A stunning debut."—Kate Albus, award-winning author of A Place to Hang the Moon