Naming Maya

Uma Krishnaswami

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

West meets East

Although Maya has done her best to avoid it, she is spending part of her summer in Chennai, India, with her mother, who is trying to sell her grandfather's old house. Soon Maya is drawn into a complicated friendship with eccentric Kamala Mami, who has been a housekeeper and cook for years in Maya's extended family. At the same time, Maya is thrust into an ocean of memories, all coming at her too quickly for her to understand. In particular, she is forced to examine the history of her parents' divorce -- all the more painful because she believes the trouble began with the choosing of her name. For years the tension has simmered in a cauldron of anxiety, secrets, and misunderstandings. It is only with the help of Kamala Mami and Maya's cousin Sumati that Maya is able to see what happened to her parents.

In this compelling first novel, a young Indian American girl finally learns that she can choose which memories to keep and which to let go.


Read an Excerpt

Naming Maya
MamiThe day after Mom and I arrive in India from New Jersey, I watch the number 45B bus screech down the road. It clatters to a halt outside my grandfather's old house that we have come here to sell. Passengers tumble out. Another few feet and the bus will have gone crashing into the tea-and-soda stall that sits at a tilt against the tree on the corner. A narrow escape. The traffic hurries on.Someone squeaks our front gate open. I look out the window again, and I see a tiny figure with gray hair pulled into a little braid so tight the end of it curls up and sticks out at a defiant


Praise for Naming Maya

"Sensitively wrought...While vivifying the sights of India and offering a glimpse of the country's history, Krishnaswami creates a hearfelt story. Maya's release of the past is convincingly reluctant; her tentative steps toward the future movingly portrayed." -- Publishers Weekly

"[Krishnaswami's] language is lush and Maya's observations are piercingly honest. Both setting and protagonist are entirely memorable, and difficult to leave behind." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Krishnaswami evokes the 'maddening, dazzling place' with rich, poetic imagery, and she beautifully captures Maya's shift from anger...to appreciation, understanding, and love." -- Booklist

"Slowly simmering like a good masala...a welcome addition to an ever-growing collection of global young adult literature by diverse authors." -- VOYA

"Engaging...full of pulsing sensory images of a bustling Indian city and the complex emotions of an eleven year-old Indian-American girl...readers will easily respond to Maya's confusion, sadness, and anger." -- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Vividly drawn." -- The Horn Book

Reviews from Goodreads






Teacher's Guide


Available Formats and Book Details

Naming Maya

Uma Krishnaswami

New Jersey Garden State Children's Book Award, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society
  • e-Book