I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You Ok? : Tales of Driving and Being Driven
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Overview -

"I am a poet," I said. "It is my destiny to do strange things."

My father gripped the wheel of his car. "I am the chauffeur for foolishness."

We said no more.

Foolhardy missions. Life-altering conversations. Gifts--given and received. 

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More About I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You Ok? by Naomi Shihab Nye

"I am a poet," I said. "It is my destiny to do strange things."

My father gripped the wheel of his car. "I am the chauffeur for foolishness."

We said no more.

Foolhardy missions. Life-altering conversations. Gifts--given and received. Loss. Getting lost. Wisdom delivered before dawn and deep into the night. Love and kissing (not necessarily in that order). Laughter. Rides on the edge. Roses. Ghosts.

As a traveling poet and visiting teacher, Naomi Shihab Nye has spent a considerable amount of time in cars, both driving and being driven. Her observations, stories, encounters, and escapades--and the kernels of truth she gathers from them--are laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving, and unforgettable. Buckle up.

  • ISBN-13: 9780060853921
  • ISBN-10: 0060853921
  • Publisher: Harper Teen
  • Publish Date: September 2007
  • Page Count: 242
  • Reading Level: Ages 13-UP
  • Dimensions: 7.61 x 5.51 x 0.95 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.74 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Young Adult Nonfiction > Travel
Books > Young Adult Nonfiction > People & Places - General
Books > Young Adult Nonfiction > Transportation - Cars & Trucks

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 74.
  • Review Date: 2007-09-24
  • Reviewer: Staff

Nye brings a keen curiosity and a poet's sensibility to this smooth, anecdotal collection that amplifies the notion that the journey itself is the destination. The most memorable characters are taxi drivers, such as the Syracuse, N.Y., cabbie whose conversation gives the book its title: driving her to the airport before dawn, he warns Nye that he will ask three times if she is okay, “Just to make sure you feel safe and secure. We're living in strange times, and I want you to feel very comfortable.” In other highlights of Nye's tour, she re-creates the voices of a rickshaw driver in India who tries to talk her into visiting a rug store instead of the Taj Mahal; the Glasgow driver who invites her to sit in front with him and bids her farewell with, “Okay then, be safe to the other side of the sea”; and an Egyptian driver in New York City who boasts of trafficking in counterfeit handbags. Nye muses on what she learns on specific travels and shares stories about driving other people (among them, possibly senile strangers, distinguished visiting writers and her own son). Aside from some name-dropping and some mildly self-indulgent moments, Nye's prose flows fluidly and evokes any number of different settings. She makes her case that “what happen[s] in the margins, on the way to the destinations of any day, might be as intriguing as what happen[s] when you {get] there.” All ages. (Sept.)

BookPage Reviews

On the road again

To read poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye's tales of driving and being driven is to hear her voice in every syllable. Like her poetry, mostly written for adults, Nye's prose comes from deep within a heart that believes, more that anything else, in the power of human connection.

Thirty-one stories of conversations and adventures while in cars make up I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You OK? Nye's gift is her ability to ask the right questions, remember the answers and recount them in a way that erases the distance between writer and reader. I nod in agreement when she remarks that all we see of taxi drivers are the sides and backs of their heads. And, when she is in a car accident (in a friend's car), I feel her sadness and responsibility as she surveys the damage to the totaled GTO.

In "Dora," Naomi finds herself with an unexpected passenger shortly after finally passing her driver's test: An old lady who speaks only Spanish plunks herself in the back of the car and will not get out. "This situation had not been included in the dull driving manual I had been poring over, reluctantly, for more than a year. So far every problem I had encountered in my life had not been predicted or described by anyone in advance." Indeed. And since she does not quite know what to do with this lady, now called Dora, she takes her home to her own mother, who helps her find her home.

These stories are for any age—children will nod and laugh in recognition while adult readers will find themselves grabbing for a slip of paper to write down quotations and sentences to treasure. Poignant, hilarious, terrifying and always soul-sustaining, Nye's stories remind us what it is to be truly human. Put on your seatbelt; you're in for a satisfying read.

Robin Smith drives her late-model Saturn in Nashville when she can't get her husband to do the driving.

BAM Customer Reviews