Amina's Voice - Hena Khan

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

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.

This is a book that needs to exist in the child lit world right now! A young girl finding her voice in the midst of cultural intolerance, a coming-together of those from differing religious backgrounds, and police who are actually trying to find the perpetrators of crime against a Muslim community. In a world that is so full of hate and intolerance, where the police are not often any safer to go to than the perpetrators, and where vandalism and hate crimes are a routine part of life, this is a book full of hope and tolerance when we need it most.

Though the plot moves incredibly quickly, and some of the emotional impact is lost in the fast pacing, Khan's writing is solid and compelling overall. Amina's voice is authentic and sweet, and the cultural upbringing is beautifully examined, even where complications arise within interpretations of the Quran, and the nuanced exploration will give young readers a lot to ponder, I think.

I love the elements of diversity throughout as they never feel forced or cliched. Amina's friend Soojin is working toward her citizenship ceremony with her family, but her discussions of wanting to change her name are troubling to Amina. Is Soojin wanting to desert her Korean background? And what about her new "friend" Emily, who used to make fun of her and Soojin's food back in elementary school.

As she develops, and as her religion and culture come under fire, Amina begins to find her voice, and she learns to raise it in public, even though she starts out straight up terrified of being in front of a crowd. This is a beautiful book about coming of your shell and learning to be confident in your own skin.

Highly Recommended


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