Amina is a Pakistani-American who has just started middle school with her best friend, a Korean-American, Soojin. Soojin is applying for American citizenship and has decided to change her name to sound more American. Soojin’s sudden refutation of identity causes a rift between the friends, which is further widened as Emily, a student who used to make fun of their cultural differences, tries to befriend the girls. As if Amina does not face enough stress and new feelings of jealously already, her strong-willed uncle from Pakistan decides to visit, her teacher pressures her to sing in the school concert—Amina never sings in public—and her Sunday school teacher and parents force her to enter a Quran competition for the local Islamic Center. Just as things cannot get any worse, Amina accidentally shares Emily’s secret crush, causing a trivial fight with her friends, and the local Islamic Center and mosque is vandalized. Similar to the hate crime in It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, Amina’s community, family, and friends are forced to reconcile their differences and pull together to physically and emotionally rebuild their home.
A middle grade read for fourth to seventh graders, Amina’s Voice addresses modern day issues about what it is like to grow up Muslim in America. Amina faces criticism from all sides, including her Pakistani relatives. As she continuously fights cultural barriers, she learns that she must also be more accepting and brave. Amina has her own flaws, which she must overcome. Similar to It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, Amina’s Voice pulls readers into the story. How can you not cheer them along and want to embrace this supportive and tolerant community? The well-rounded characters face major personal growth, and although the plot slows for just a moment, collections can benefit from this multicultural read. I hope to see this new Muslim imprint publish many more timely, intuitive, and relatable novels for school-aged children and tweens.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan (Salaam Reads, 2017)