As I walked around the expo hall at this past November's NCTE, a book caught my eye at the Simon and Schuster display. It was pointed out to me by my friends, and it was one I wanted to take a second look at. We talk about books being windows and mirrors. We talk about diverse books. Yet around us we have people wanting to build walls and close doors. I'm glad a second look was taken because this is a book we need in our libraries and classrooms.
by Hena Khan
published by Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
My quick thoughts:
I loved Amina's voice - no pun intended. At first glance, she could be anyone you know. Amina sounds like a sixth grader. She has the same middle school concerns, especially about friendship, as many readers. The problems that weigh heavily on her mind, are typical middle school issues. But add in the parts that might be different from what you see at your own home - Urdu words, Quran, hajibs, mosques - and you have what could be a window for many readers. Or, maybe this is a mirror book. Maybe Amina is you - a Pakistani American attending middle school - but you don't usually see yourself within a book.
I think this book is powerful to have in middle grade classrooms right now. We need to value cultures and history, and see kindness in people.
I think the voice of this book is universal. I think readers will see the middle grader inside this book. I think readers will either learn something or be relieved to see something familiar.
This is a book you don't want to pass on - be looking for it on March 14th!