Review—Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and illustrated by Hatem Aly

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I’m thrilled to review Meet Yasmin!, which as far as I know, is the first early reader series to feature a Muslim character! For anyone who doesn’t know, early readers are those thin half-page-sized books that children graduate to after picture books and typically read on their own. I’d like to shout a welcome to Yasmin from the rooftops, and then go spread copies of these wonderful books everywhere. Continue reading

Saints and Misfits Discussion Questions

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I reread Saints and Misfits this month for my real-life book club, and I thought it would be helpful to share the discussion questions we used.

Instead of going through the questions one by one, we used it to spark conversations by taking turns choosing the questions we found interesting. There are generic questions and more specific questions so that everyone had a chance to speak to whatever interested them about the novel.

Here’s the printable PDF:
Saints and Misfits Discussion Qs

Let me know if you use it or if it’s helpful for you! I’d love to have feedback!

Review—Living Creatures in the Holy Qur’an by Shahada Sharelle Haqq

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When Tughra Books approached me about a new children’s book about animals in the Quran, I was excited by the concept. They were kind enough to send me a copy of Living Creatures in the Holy Qur’an, which is both written and illustrated by Shahada Abdul Haqq. It is essentially a book of stories of the prophets and other stories, but organized by creature. I was pleased to open the table of contents and see how many creatures are mentioned in the Quran: a lot more than I thought. Continue reading

Review—The Crowning Venture: Inspiration from Women Who Have Memorized the Quran by Saadia Mian

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Have you ever considered memorizing the Quran, even if you only entertained the thought for a fraction of a second way in the back of your mind? If so, The Crowning Venture by Saadia Mian is a must-read. Rather than try to convince anyone that they need to undertake a Quran memorization journey, this book shows how other women have done it and how empowering it can be. This book combines relatable stories with tips, and discredits negative ideas about women memorizing the Quran.

Mian begins with her own story of how she became a hafiza. Like many of the other women in her book, it is not something that she ever thought she would do. She also shares the stories of twelve women from different walks of life: how they made the decision to pursue memorization and how they went about the work of actually memorizing. The tips, pointers, and advice in this section were as varied as the women themselves. The methods include things like recording yourself, keeping track of your progress, and annotating the mushaf.

As someone who has been there herself and spoken with many women about their journeys, Mian has a keen understanding of the ideas and thought processes that keep women from memorizing the Quran. She tears down the idea that women needn’t memorize the Quran because they won’t lead taraweeh or that they shouldn’t memorize it because they’ll fall behind in review while on their periods. In addition to these external negative thoughts, she also tackles the internal negative thoughts that women who consider memorizing the Quran contend with. For example, she talks about how women frequently seek out perfection and are more likely than men to avoid trying something if they doubt their ability to achieve perfection. She also talks about how many women have difficulty owning their successes, and instead feel sheepish or embarrassed about an accomplishment that they should feel proud of. Another issue she tackles is the fear that many women have that if they memorize the Quran, they will be perceived as more religious than they are.

Also included are some stories of women who didn’t memorize the Quran, a chapter that includes thirty-two etiquettes of proper recitation of the Quran, and a chapter called “Roadmap.” The roadmap includes all of the ingredients that you need to memorize the Quran, including things like patience and taqwa, as well as pro advice like “tie up knowledge with writing” and “choose one mushaf style.”

My favorite takeaway from this book is that memorizing the Quran is not an all-or-nothing endeavor. It’s about building and maintaining a relationship with the word of Allah.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this yet or if you want to. If you have read it, what was your favorite takeaway?

Review—Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori L. Tharps

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Ibtihaj Muhammad’s new memoir begins on the first day of fourth grade. The teacher, who is finding the seven letters in “Ibtihaj” too difficult to pronounce, nonetheless locates Ibtihajj by connecting her last name (Muhammad) with the scarf she’s wearing. The teacher tells her that she’ll call her “Ibti” instead. Ibtihaj goes along with this, but she notices that her teacher doesn’t have any trouble with other longer names: Elizabeth (nine letters) and Jennifer (eight).

This story sets the tone for the rest of the book. Muhammad’s home environment was loving and supportive, but she was challenged in nearly every other space for the right to be present and to be herself: black, Muslim, and hijabi. Continue reading

Review—My First Quran with Pictures Juz Amma Part 1 by Shereen Sharief and illustrated by Nicola Anderson

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I was intrigued by this book from the first moment I saw it on social media. It’s the kind of project that we don’t realize how badly we need it until we actually have it. I’m so excited for Shereen Sharief, and I pray that Allah makes this project heavy in her scale of good deeds. The Quran plays such an important role in the life of a Muslim, and there is no doubt that teaching children the meaning of the Quran is a priority. My First Quran with Pictures is a fantastic resource to facilitate understanding of the verses children memorize and use first: Juz Amma.

What makes this book unique is the format and the fantastic illustrations by Nicola Anderson. The name of each surah appears clearly at the top of the page in Arabic and English. Some surahs have a paragraph of background information at the top (including the cause of revelation if applicable). Each Arabic ayah appears near its illustration. The English meanings of the ayahs appear at the bottom of the page. All ayahs are clearly numbered so it’s very easy to find the English that corresponds to the Arabic, and the opposite.

At first I was confused about how to read this with my children. After we worked out a rhythm, they didn’t want to stop. The method we worked out was that one of them would read the surah on the page, pausing after each ayah. When they paused, I would read the English translation out loud. And then they would read the next ayah. All the while, I used a finger to follow along with the Arabic ayah in the book, which is conveniently placed next to the illustration depicting the meaning. Continue reading

Review—Muslims in America: Examining the Facts by Craig Considine

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Engaging enough to be read cover-to-cover, but organized as a work of reference, this book of questions and answers combines the evidence-based rigor of a monograph with accessible prose to make this the perfect reference volume for academics, activists, and religious leaders.

Published as a part of ABC-CLIO’s Contemporary Debates series, Muslims in America is comprised of thirty-one questions grouped into five chapters: the history of Muslims on American soil, demographics and diversity, politics, Islamophobia, and American national identity. Each question is answered in three parts. “The answer” is the short answer to the question. “The facts” contains the detailed answer, including names, dates, and fascinating mini–history lessons. “Further reading” is a list of references related to the answer. Continue reading

Review—An Acquaintance by Saba Syed

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When Sarah begins her senior year of high school, Jason is just the cute new soccer captain. But as they spend more and more time together, Sarah feels increasingly conflicted about the nature of their relationship. She still insists, however, that he is just “an acquaintance.”

I read through this compelling story in a single day. I couldn’t put it down until I found out what would happen to the characters, and when I finally did, I kept thinking about the complex themes Saba Syed explores through the life of a teenage girl.   Continue reading

Review—Pious & Professional by Sohair Omar

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I frequently browse the Publishing category on LaunchGood to see what exciting bookish projects people are working on.  I happened upon Pious & Professional about a month ago, and I was intrigued.

It’s a book full of advice for Muslim women on how to maintain their Islam in a professional environment. Organized into eleven chapters that cover topics like “The Ultimate Goal: To Please Allah” and “Prayer Breaks and Holidays,” the text reads like a list of bullet points about each topic with lots of Quran and hadeeth included. Continue reading

Review—A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

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An exquisitely written story about the members of an Indian-American Muslim family struggling to find a place to belong both at home and in the world

Rafiq and Layla want their children to honor the traditions of their own upbringings in India. That means arranged marriages, traditional gender roles, and preserving their image in the community. Rafiq is proud, harsh, and detached, and Layla, strong but silent, chooses to keep the peace rather than challenge him. Their three children are American born and raised and have their own expectations for life, but neither Rafiq nor Layla is willing to recognize the difference between themselves and their children. Hadia is the perfect, dependable older sister. Huda is the middle sister—religious and independent. Amar is their younger brother—bright and sensitive but always in trouble. While the family is tight-knit, the house is often a quiet, tense place, and the relationships and interactions are often toxic.

The novel opens at Hadia’s wedding, where she is (surprisingly) marrying a partner of her own choice. Amar’s presence at the wedding is the source of serious tension; he has been estranged from the family, and the wedding is the first time they have seen him in years. Continue reading