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Action-packed, humorous, and bittersweet, this 1970s-era coming-of-age novel is more relevant than ever–exploring how a second-generation immigrant kid in a new hometown must navigate bullying, unexpected friendships, and the struggle of keeping both feet firmly planted in two very different cultures.

It’s 1979, and thirteen-year-old Joseph Nissan can’t help but notice that small-town Texas has something in common with Revolution-era Iran: an absence of fellow Jews. And in such a small town it seems obvious that a brown kid like him was bound to make friends with Latinos–which is a plus, since his new buds, the Ybarra twins, have his back. But when the Iran hostage crisis, two neighborhood bullies, and the local reverend’s beautiful daughter put him in all sorts of danger, Joseph must find new ways to cope at home and at school.

As he struggles to trust others and stay true to himself, a fiercely guarded family secret keeps his father at a distance, and even his piano teacher, Miss Eleanor–who is like a grandmother to him–can’t always protect him. But Joseph is not alone, and with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to confront his fears and discovers he can inspire others to find their courage, too.

Just a Hat is an authentically one-of-a-kind YA debut that fuses the humor of Firoozeh Dumas’s Funny in Farsi with the poignancy of Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad Is Untrue.


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Shanah Khubiar’s  Just A Hat delivers a unique coming-of-age narrative set in conservative small-town Texas in the late 1970s. The book’s strength lies in its vivid descriptions of the community, school activities, and people’s interactions, which are brought to life through realistic dialogue. These elements and the characters’ relatable emotions make for a powerful reading experience. The book’s exploration of the struggle to accept those who are different, a theme as relevant today as it was then, invites readers to empathize with the characters’ experiences.

The broad array of characters provides an excellent cross-section of racial and religious backgrounds, making Joseph’s journey complex yet poignant. Joseph Nissan is a first-generation American Jew whose parents escaped from Iran with their lives. He is studying for his bar mitzvah, achieving high grades in school, and wanting acceptance. Most of his friends are high achievers, and other students assume he is Mexican. Being kind and helpful to others is one of Joseph’s most endearing qualities. Sadly, it is also the one characteristic that puts him at risk physically and emotionally, causing him to make tough choices.

Readers who want to expand their perspectives on the history and values of people of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds will find Just A Hat an outstanding slice of reality. This story speaks to a broad audience, from young to mature adults. Hat’s off to Shanah Khubiar for showing a path to recognizing bias and accepting differences. Prepare to be intrigued, amused, and deeply moved by the emotional journey this book will take you on. 


Shanah Khubiar is a retired law enforcement officer, and she is now self-employed as a subject matter specialist. She holds a BS and MEd in education from East Texas State University and a PhD in philosophy. A student of her Persian ancestry, she incorporates (Mizrachi) Middle Eastern Jewry into her fiction, examining the historical challenges and triumphs of a different culture and narrative than what usually appears in literature. Khubiar is a sometime resident and always fan of most things Texas.



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    1 Response to "Just A Hat"

    • Kristine Anne Hall

      AGREE — it’s such a powerful and mind-expanding story. I want every young reader I know to get a copy (and their adults, too). Thanks for sharing your great review.

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