Book Review: A Bit of Earth Is a Blooming Tale of Cultural Identity and Belonging

Without giving away spoilers or details of the occurrences in “A Bit of Earth”, I’m here to tell you that this coming-of-age novel was whimsical, thought-provoking, and inspirational.

The novel, written by Karuna Riazi follows the journey of an orphan, Maria Latif who is struggling to find her place in New York City. Arriving at an alien city and assimilating with a foreign family is nothing less than a challenge for her. Riazi writes with a mix of poetry and prose, encapsulating the reader to feel every emotion.

After finishing “A Bit of Earth”, I reflected on the prominent themes of the novel. I realized that many of the struggles of Maria that are highlighted in the novel are testaments of many immigrant girls living in the West. Assimilating into a new environment, holding onto your cultural identity, and navigating various relationships are struggles that many immigrant, Muslim girls are familiar with. Here are some of the prominent themes in the book:

Cultural Identity & Diversity

Being of Bangladeshi and Pakistani descent, Maria often feels like an outcast in her surroundings. After all, New York City and her place of birth are polar opposites! Yet, Maria embraces her culture and recollects memories of what it means to be an immigrant. Her journey entails a deeper comprehension and acceptance of her identity by understanding that she can belong to more than one culture.

New York City is considered to be a multicultural hub. To no surprise, Maria makes friends of different cultural backgrounds while living there. She realizes the differences in culture and finds coping mechanisms to adjust to a foreign environment. Her efforts to understand those who are different than her demonstrate that acceptance and inclusion are important.


Through the friends Maria makes, she learns that everyone undergoes their own sets of unique battles. She learns to sympathize with those around her. The human connection is made when we recognize that we all need one another in this journey called life. The dynamics of Maria and Colin’s friendship are testaments that friendship is understanding each other and being there for one another.


Maria has a rare connection with nature, almost magical. The peace that Maria finds when she is in the garden allows her to heal from the grief of losing her parents and adjusting to a new life. The healing powers of nature showcase that nature can be a means of solace. Just as Maria’s encounters and experiences allow her to come back to life, so does the garden in that she finds comfort.


As a Pakistai-Muslim American living in the USA, I related to many of Maria’s struggles. As I read the book, there were moments when I related to Maria’s feelings of isolation and feelings of confusion. It’s never an easy journey trying to fit in when your ethnicity and cultural background is deemed to be a minority. Yet, the courage that Maria demonstrates and the empathetic nature she has towards those around her are confirmations that kindness and positivity ultimately lead to good things. Maria’s character grows throughout the book from a timid, young girl to a courageous, bold one. Just as the garden’s ultimate fate was to bloom and come to life, so was Maria’s.

A Bit of Earth is a much-needed book for all young adults navigating to find their place in the world! You can purchase your copy here!