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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani - Book Review, Interview & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

It's 1947 and twelve-year-old Nisha lives in a country that's about to be divided. India's independence is near. When the country is being split in two, becoming Pakistan and India, Nisha and her family are in danger. It's no longer safe for them to stay in Pakistan. Nisha and her brother Amil don't exactly understand where all the fighting and hatred comes from. They're half-Muslim and half-Hindu, why can't they proudly tell anyone about that? Instead they have to leave their home together with their Papa and grandmother and a long journey on foot is ahead of them. They will encounter many dangers on the way, will they safely reach their destination?

Nisha's mother passed away. Nisha has found a way to talk to her though. She writes to her mother in her diary every day. She shares her fears, hopes and dreams. Nisha needs her mother more than ever when she loses her home, has to leave a lot of people she loves behind and needs to say goodbye to everything that used to give her comfort. By telling her mother about her worries Nisha becomes braver and finds the courage to get through the difficult time ahead.

The Night Diary is a beautiful impressive story. Nisha and her family have to leave as quickly as possible, because they are no longer safe in a place that was their home for years. Nisha doesn't have a mother and now she's about to lose her house and several of the people she loves as well. That was heartbreaking to read about. She's a strong and resilient girl though. While she's still trying to understand the situation they're in, she needs all of her strength to survive the terrible road ahead. She never complains and I loved how brave she is. Reaching the border is dangerous and it's a long walk. Finding out if she and her family would safely make it kept me glued to the pages.

Veera Hiranandani's amazing descriptive writing style makes The Night Diary come to life in an incredible way. Nisha writes to her deceased mother in her diary and can therefore be completely open and honest, which makes it possible to get really close to what she thinks, feels and sees. That makes the story raw and gorgeous at the same time. I loved this structure, it perfectly suits the subject matter. The Night Diary is an absolute must-read. This fantastic thought-provoking book completely blew me away.


The night diary is meant for the 8-12 year old age range, but given the depth and beauty of the story readers of all ages will love this book.

About Veera Hiranandani

Veera Hiranandani is the author of The Night Diary (Dial), The Whole Story of Half a Girl (Yearling), which was named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book and a South Asian Book Award Finalist, and the chapter book series, Phoebe G. Green (Grosset & Dunlap). She earned her MFA in fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. A former book editor at Simon & Schuster, she now teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College's Writing Institute and is working on her next novel.


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1) Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Sure! I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I used to write poems, plays, and stories as a child. As I got older, I experimented with fine art and theater, but eventually came back to writing. I didn’t publish my first book until I was 40, but had been writing seriously since my 20s. I had a few careers along the way, an admissions counselor, a book editor, and a Montessori teacher. Along with writing, I presently teach creative writing and parent two children, ages 12 and 14.

2) The Night Diary is a story about a family’s flight because their country has become divided, what inspired you to write this book?

My father and his family took a similar journey when he was nine. Several weeks after the Partition of India in 1947, my father, his parents, and his five siblings, had to leave their home in Mirpur Khas, Pakistan and flee over the new border of India. I had been thinking about this time in history for so long, I knew I had to do something with what I had learned over the years and my connection to it.

3) Your ancestors also had to go on a difficult journey as well, how did you learn about this and are parts of your story based on their experiences?

I always heard bits and pieces of the story from my father growing up. But I think it was a painful story to tell and something my father and his family wanted to leave behind. I became more and more curious about the history I was connected to. As I got older, I started asking more questions and doing research until I finally felt brave enough to shape a story around it. Nisha’s story is more dramatic than my father’s, but I wanted to represent many stories of Partition, at least the stories I learned about from talking to people, reading personal accounts, and general research.

4) Nisha talks to her deceased mother in her diary, how did you get that idea?

When I was first forming Nisha, I saw this desperately shy girl longing to find a way to communicate her feelings in a way she couldn’t do out loud. That’s when I had the idea of a diary. But who was she writing to, herself? Perhaps. But then I thought it would be more powerful if she was writing to someone, and her deceased mother made a lot of sense. It’s her way to create a private relationship with the mother she never knew.

5) Can you describe the main characters of The Night Diary in seven words each?

Interesting. Well, I’m not sure how many characters I should do, but here’s Nisha, Papa, Amil, and Kazi. One thing I noticed doing this, is that some of the characters have contradicting qualities, like Papa is both distracted and focused, depending on the subject. And they are all brave, simply because they keep going.

Nisha: Observant, shy, insecure, sensitive, smart, sad, brave

Papa: Focused, distracted, strong, concerned, aloof, fearful, brave

Amil: Playful, restless, creative, strong, scared, loving, brave

Kazi: Caring, nurturing, thoughtful, generous, organized, resourceful, brave

6) How did you prepare for the many emotional scenes in your story and what was the most difficult part to write?

I think the most emotional and difficult scene I wrote is when Amil is really suffering from dehydration. When Papa leaves to try and find him water, in my head I knew there were stories of family members separating and never finding each other again and many dying of thirst and hunger during their journeys. So it was an incredibly vulnerable moment for this family, and I could connect with how it might have felt as both a child, a sibling, and as a parent, because I am or have been all of those things. As far as preparing for writing emotional scenes, I don’t really do anything in particular. But if I’m feeling emotional writing it, chances are the reader will feel that way reading it.

7) You grew up being part of different cultures at the same time, how was that?

It was often confusing, but now I count the experience as a strength. Having to navigate multiple identities (my mother is Jewish, born in this country, and my father is Hindu and was born in India) can be difficult as child because everyone else seems to fit neatly in these boxes and sometimes I felt like I was the only one who didn’t. The truth is we all have things that challenge our sense of belonging, and because I had to confront that in a very direct way, it gave me the ability to empathize with different perspectives, especially with other people also living in the margins.

8) Food plays an important role in The Night Diary, what inspired this choice?

I’ve always loved reading about food in other books. I feel like I remember every food scene I’ve ever read. I also enjoy cooking and eating lots of different foods. I think my relationship with food has always been a way for me to easily connect to the different cultures in my family. I love using food in order to explore a deeper sense of the character’s identity. For Nisha, cooking helps her express herself.

9) How did your writing career start?

I’ve written all my life, but when I decided to go to graduate school for writing, I knew I was making a bigger commitment to the craft. It still took me another fifteen years after that to publish my first book. I came close with one editor for my first book, The Whole Story of Half a Girl, but ultimately it didn’t work out. Then I found an agent, the wonderful Sara Crowe, and the rest, they say, is history.

10) What are your plans for the future?

I simply hope to keep writing, keep publishing, and I love teaching writing as well. I’m always working on a new book. If I’m able to continue to do these things for the rest of my life, I’ll be a very happy camper.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a paperback copy of The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani.

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The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. I like that it's based on the history of her father. It must have been a difficult experience.

  2. This must be a very emotional and moving story and no doubt I'd shed a few tears whilst reading it.

  3. Every review I've read so far has been extremely positive. Well done Veera!

  4. The Night Diary sounds like an intensely emotional story about family, bravery and migration. Based on a tragic time in history and written in an accessible style it will give young readers a lot to think about.

  5. I love reading about other cultures.This book sounds amazing!

  6. Sounds like an interesting look at Indian independence!

  7. this looks right up my alley - history is a passion, and social history is so so interesting!

  8. i would love to give this book a read, sounds good xxxx

  9. Would love to read a great book about India Veera

  10. Would so love to read it with my daughter, thank you.

  11. I enjoy reading about food in books, too.

  12. This sounds great and I'm sure the author's diverse background will make it really authentic.

  13. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

  14. I think the "advice" section of this review is spot-on-- it elucidated a thought an impression I'd developed while reading about this book.