• Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Skunk Girl - Sheba KarimSee larger image
See Hi-Res Jpeg image

email/print EmailPrint

Skunk Girl

Recommendations: Booklist; Bulletin-Center Child Books; Kirkus Reviews; School Library Journal

Ebook Ebook 
Share this book with friends through your favorite social networking site. Share:           Bookmark and Share
Add this title to your virtual bookshelves at any of these book community sites. Shelve:             
sign up to get updates about this author
add this book's widget
to your site or blog

About The Author

Sheba KarimSheba Karim

SHEBA KARIM was born and raised in the Catskills. She received an M.F.A. in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and presently lives in New York City. This is her first book.

photo: Photo by Anjali Bhargava


Bulletin-Center Child Books
Kirkus Reviews
School Library Journal

Stay In Touch

Sign up to recieve information about new releases, author appearances, special offers, all related to you favorite authors and books.

Other Books You Might Like

cover Buy
Sonny's War

Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR Paper
After her father dies, fourteen-year-old Corin needs her brother, Sonny, more than ever. Sonny is quiet but he's a great listener, and Cory knows where she can...
cover Buy

More formats
Queen of Secrets

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
This year, Essie Green’s life is going to be different. She’s made the cheerleading squad and caught the eye of the captain of the football team. However, she...
cover Buy

More formats
Leaving Glorytown
One Boy's Struggle Under Castro

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Eduardo F. Calcines was a child of Fidel Castro’s Cuba; he was just three years old when Castro came to power in January 1959. After that, everything changed...
cover Buy
Full Service

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The times they are a-changin' . . . The summer that Paul turns sixteen his mother pushes him to take a job in town instead of just working on the family...
cover Buy
Carl Goes to Daycare

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Carl the rottweiler takes charge when things take an unexpected turn at the day care center he is visiting.
cover Buy
Of Sound Mind

Sunburst Paperbacks
A poignant novel partially set in a world of silence High school senior Theo is fluent in two languages: spoken English and sign. His parents and brother,...
cover Buy

More formats
Everything Beautiful in the World

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Lately I feel like an astronaut out on a space walk – constantly praying the tube attaching me to the ship doesn’t snap and send me flying into outer darkness....
cover Buy
Anything But Ordinary

Frances Foster Books
From the moment their romance begins in eighth grade, Winifred and Bernie are individualists. They pride themselves on being different, and have each other for...
cover Buy
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath

Square Fish
Break out the bandages! Bad Kitty needs a bath. And she’s not getting in the tub without a fight.
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook

Feiwel & Friends
In this third book in Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in...
cover Buy
My Big Animal Book

Priddy Books
This is the perfect book for kids who love animals. On the big, sturdy board pages, they’ll discover bright, bold photographs of all different kinds of...


The Keera in My Brain
I’m a giant in the sky flying over crimson-roofed houses, dressed in
a wool turtleneck and jeans. It’s hot and I’ve started to perspire, a
fine drizzle of sweat that falls onto the village below. That’s when I
see a group of elves walking single file. They’re carrying hot fudge
sundaes, lots of whipped cream and no cherry, just the way I like
them. As I’m about to swoop down and attempt to steal a sundae,
someone grabs my shoulder. It’s a ghost, and it knows my name.
“Nina.” The ghost is still gripping my shoulder. My mother. Her
hair is tied tightly back and nearly every inch of her face is covered in
white cream bleach.
“Wake up, beta,” she says. Her fingers smell like onion and chili
powder; she’s already made breakfast. She always likes me to start the
school year off on a full stomach. “It’s your first day of school!”
She says this as though I should be excited. Though it is indeed
the first day of my junior year of high school, none of the feelings
swilling around in my head bear any relation to excitement. In fact,
they’re pretty much the opposite of excitement. After spending much
of the summer reading the two SAT prep books my parents had
bought me, it’s easy to come up with possible antonyms. Unenthused.
Disinterested. Reluctant.
My mother shakes her head. “Sonia was always so excited to start
a new year of school, but you never want to get out of bed.”
I sit up. “I’m awake now, Ma. Happy?”
“I made you an omelet,” she says. “Hurry up before it gets cold.”
And so I rise, and so begins another year. Another year of social
exile, another year of not fitting in, another year of not measuring up
to the legacy left by my sister, Sonia, another year of wishing I were
someone else, someplace else. Who on earth would be excited about
My father’s in the kitchen and extends his arms out wide as soon
as he sees me. I brace myself. He’s a small man, but bearlike in his
affections, often testing the capacity of my lungs to withstand intense
pressure in the form of zealous embraces, though as I’ve become
older, the duration of these embraces has lessened. “Nina!” he booms
cheerily, squeezing me for a second before letting go. It’s a rare
moment when my father isn’t in a merry mood. If we were white and
Christian, he’d be one of those dads who dress up as Santa Claus
every Christmas. “Ready to ace calculus?”
“I’m not taking calculus till next year, Dad,” I tell him. His forehead
furrows. Sonia, of course, started calculus in her junior year,
which is probably why he looks so confused.
“Don’t worry, you will be soon!” he says, as if calculus were some
major milestone every teenager aspires to achieve.
My father has no surgeries scheduled at the hospital this morning,
so after we eat my mother’s omelets he offers to drive me to school,
which is fine with me since I don’t have my license yet and it’s embar-
rassing to be seen stepping out of a yellow school bus when you’re a
junior in high school.
As soon as we get in the car my father puts on his favorite kind of
music, qawwali, Sufi mystical music. Sometimes, when he gets really
into it, he sings along and does this gesture with his right hand, like
he’s unscrewing a lightbulb. But today he stays still. It’s a little too
early in the morning for musical theatrics, even for my father.
We drive past rows of houses with small yards and swing sets and
the occasional inflatable pool, and stop at the light in front of the old
roller rink, which was shut down a few years ago and has been abandoned
ever since, weeds and shattered glass blanketing the steps to
the entrance. Back in 1986, when I was in fourth grade, this roller rink
was the epicenter of the social scene. I used to hate having wheels on
my feet. When I did go roller-skating I’d hold on to the wall that bordered
the rink as the other kids raced by me, skating hand in hand, or
backward, or both. Mostly when I went I sat around with my friends
Bridget and Helena, and sucked on red and green ice pops, the kind
wrapped in plastic that you squeezed from the bottom up.
We take a left and then a right onto Main Street. The words “Welcome
to Deer Hook” are painted across the brick wall of a store, also
abandoned, which is next to another abandoned store, which is next
to the offtrack betting parlor, where already there are a few old men in
stained clothing loitering outside, the necks of liquor bottles sticking
out from the paper bags in their hands. Deer Hook’s Main Street has
a bad half and a better half, divided by the main intersection, the only
intersection on Main Street that has a traffic light.We cross the light
into the better half and I can tell you the order of what we pass without
looking: the movie theater, the Italian restaurant La Traviata, the
Ming Dynasty Chinese takeout place, the pizzeria, the taxidermist
shop with the stuffed moose head in the window. I’ve spent my whole
life in this town and nothing here has really changed, except for some
businesses shutting down and never reopening, like the roller rink. In
this town, things aren’t reborn or reinvented. Everything that doesn’t
stay the same either dies or goes away.
For as long as I can remember I’ve pretty much hated Deer Hook,
population 11,250. When I was in middle school, I had a game that I
liked to play. I would close my eyes and touch a globe ever so lightly
with my finger. Then I’d spin it with my other hand. Wherever my
finger landed when the globe stopped spinning was where I was
going to end up living, and I would yell out the name of my future
home. “Australia! Egypt!” If it landed on someplace like Kansas or an
ocean, I cheated and spun it again. “Brazil!”
One day, my father walked in as I landed on New Zealand. “New
Zealand!” I shouted.
“What are you doing?” he asked. I explained. My father raised his
bushy eyebrows. “You have a keera in your brain,” he told me. Keera
is the Urdu word for “insect.” What my father meant was that I had
something in my brain that was giving me strange ideas, like wanting
to live halfway across the globe. This was a bit hypocritical, considering
he had moved halfway across the globe, but I didn’t mention this,
because he would have said, “That’s different.” Instead I imagined
the keera in my brain. He was a friendly-looking insect, like a cricket,
with big, powerful green eyes that could see the world beyond Deer
Hook, beyond Albany and New York City, all the way to New
My father pulls into the circular driveway in front of Deer Hook
High, a U-shaped one-story building with a statue of Henry Hudson
in front of the entrance. There’s a ton of people milling around, talking
and laughing, most of them familiar. Huddled together by the
statue is a group of nervous freshmen. “Have fun!” my father says.
My fingers tighten around the door handle. Once I exit this car,
there’s no going back. It’s not that I hate high school, it’s just that I
wish it would hurry up and end already. But I suppose to understand
this, you have to understand the story of my life thus far. The dread
I’m now feeling is a culmination of years of dealing with things that
end in “shun,” at least phonetically: repression, suppression, exclusion.
My name is Nina Khan, and growing up, there were two things
that especially plagued me. The first was my sister.
Excerpted from Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim
Copyright © 2009 by Sheba Karim.
Published in April 2009 by Farrar Straus Giroux
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

You May Also Be Interested In

cover Buy

More formats
You Don't Know Me

Square Fish
"A rewarding an dimportant message for all readers . . . Klass blazes past his previous literary efforts stylistically, introducing elements of magical realism...
cover Buy
The Treasure

Square Fish
"Rich full-color illustrations provide a fresh and vigorous interpretation of the familiar story of a poor man who, inspired by a recurring dream, journeys to...
cover Buy

More formats
Tumble & Fall

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
A novel about the end of days full of surprising beginnings  The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in...