Little Brother for Sale

Black lives matter. They have always mattered, and they will always matter. See the link after the review for ways to get involved.


Asma’s little brother, Hamza, is annoying. He not only distracts her parents from watching the cool things she does, but he also pulls her hair, steals her food, and makes noise during her favorite show. She has decided that enough is enough: she takes him out to play and gets a For Sale sign and gets to work. She fails to sell him to the mail carrier, a mother walking with a stroller, and an elderly neighbor. They laugh and insist that she would miss him. Asma is starting to feel frustrated when her mom calls them in—it’s time for Hamza’s nap. Asma is delighted to be on her own for a few hours, but she soon finds herself thinking about what Hamza would do if he were there with her.

This sweet and simple story by Rahma Rodaah is delightful. The illustrations are stunning—bright and emotive, and the characters’ facial expressions are so perfect. Readers will love Asma; she knows what she wants and goes after it! And they’ll also feel with her (she’s right about younger siblings, after all), making the emotional payoff at the end that much better.

Find it here: Goodreads | Rahma Rodaah | Amazon.com


Striving to Be an Antiracist

The Prophet ﷺ said that when we see an evil, we should change it with our hands, and if we can’t, we should change it with our tongues. In that spirit, get to work. Go to a protest. Contact your elected officials. Donate. Sign a petition. Speak up in your community. Call out friends and family if they say something racist. Interrogate your bookshelves. Make dua. And, most importantly, if you’re not Black, educate yourself and your children.

“Putting Justice Into Practice: Khutbah on the George Floyd Murder and Police Brutality by Dr. Tahir Wyatt

“Your Black Muslim Friends Are Not Okay, America’s Knee Is On Their Neck” by Nikia Bilal on MuslimMatters

Ways to help from BLM: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

Basirah the Basketballer Says Insha’Allah

Black lives matter. They have always mattered, and they will always matter. See the link after the review for ways to get involved.


basirah

Basirah’s favorite thing to do is to play basketball, and when she finds out that Coach Halima will be choosing a team captain, Basirah decides that that team captain will be her. When Basirah makes this announcement to her dad, he reminds her that she should say insha’Allah. The next day, she tries insha’Allah out and gets a perfect grade, a coveted dessert, and a shot from the free throw line! But when her friend Kafayat is chosen as team captain instead of her, Basirah wonders if maybe she misunderstood how insha’Allah works.

After school, Hafsah curls up on the couch next to her dad (who is still wearing scrubs from work), and he explains. “Insha’Allah isn’t a magic word that makes your wishes automatically come true. . . . But, it is a word that reminds us to work as hard as we can, then trust God to give us whatever is best for us.”

Sometimes, conversations about tawakkul can become divorced from everyday life. But the dad’s explanation of insha’Allah marries a phrase Muslims use all the time with core beliefs about God and faith.

I love the fact that Basirah’s next step is to reflect on herself—she realizes that while Kafayat is always helping her teammates, she herself is usually hogging the ball. She immediately puts her dad’s lesson into action—making a cake to show Kafayat she appreciates her and changing her actions on the court to reflect the kind of person she wants to be.

Basirah begins every morning with a beautiful affirmation and dua: “I will be a better friend and teammate today, Insha’Allah.” And she cheekily adds, “And the team captain next year, Insha’Allah, Insha’Allah, Insha’Allah!”

This book is everything I want to see from the world of Muslim publishing—well-written stories about diverse characters living relatable lives and learning about the world and their faith.

Find it here: Goodreads | Ruqaya’s Bookshelf


Striving to Be an Antiracist

The Prophet ﷺ said that when we see an evil, we should change it with our hands, and if we can’t, we should change it with our tongues. In that spirit, get to work. Go to a protest. Contact your elected officials. Donate. Sign a petition. Speak up in your community. Call out friends and family if they say something racist. Interrogate your bookshelves. Make dua. And, most importantly, if you’re not Black, educate yourself and your children.

“Your Black Muslim Friends Are Not Okay, America’s Knee Is On Their Neck” by Nikia Bilal on MuslimMatters

Ways to help from BLM: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

That Can Be Arranged

tcba

Looking for a hilarious follow-up to Yes, I’m Hot in This? Huda Fahmy’s second book of comics, That Can Be Arranged, is just as funny and relatable. This one tells the story of how she met her husband and got married; it explores how Muslims who don’t date still manage to get to know their prospective spouse before tying the knot.

The story begins when Huda is five years old and ends at her wedding. In between, she describes the evolution of her feelings about finding a life partner—romantic idealism, desperation, taking things into her own hands, having standards, exercising patience, and finally, understanding qadar.

What makes this book so relatable to insiders is her no-holds-barred discussion of the community quirks that plague us all—expiration dates for young women (25 in some communities), the men to be wary of (including but not limited to “the Yes Man,” “the Visa,” and “the Dude-Bro”), bio-datas, and the aunties hunting marriageable young women at weddings and (mostly metaphorically) shouting “Bride ahoy!”

For outsiders, this book also offers an informative peak into how two people find a life partner without dating. Fahmy makes it clear that Islam is not a monolith and that this is a Muslim love story but not the only one. She explains the rules of gender interactions as well as things like kitab and walima.

Personally, one of my favorite things about this book is the way she shows that her parents’ involvement in the process is useful and welcome. Another favorite for me (obviously) is the comparison to Jane Austen—the nosy moms, the balls, the dowries, the chaperones, and the codes of conduct for interactions.

The best thing about Fahmy’s writing (and drawing) is that she is super real. She’s willing to spill it all out on the table, where we can gather around, see glimpses of our own lives, and share in the joy of both laughing at ourselves a little and appreciating a culture that is uniquely ours.

Here she is on NPR talking about the book. 

Find it here: Goodreads | Andrews McNeel Publishing | Bookshop.org | Amazon.com |Book Depository

Muslim Girls Rise

“People may tell you that you can’t do something because of the way you look, dress, or pray. Your name may sound different. Never forget that you are extraordinary. You are powerful, brave, and clever. Great things come from people like you.”

—Saira Mir

This nonfiction picture book from Salaam Reads showcases nineteen contemporary Muslim women who are doing extraordinary things.

These are the women who are featured:

  • Amanda Saab is a former cooking competition contestant as well as the founder of the Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor initiative and her own bakery.
  • Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of the MuslimGirl website.
  • Hana Tajima is a fashion designer; she has worked with UNIQLO to make clothing for hijabi women.
  • Dalia Mogahed is a researcher and political advisor.
  • Hibah Rahmani is a flight control engineer at NASA.
  • Ibtihaj Muhammad is an Olympic fencer.
  • Ilhan Omar is a member of the US House of Representatives.
  • Ilyasah Shabazz  is a writer and activist.
  • Linda Sarsour is an activist and was a leader of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
  • Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize; she fights for the education of girls worldwide.
  • Maria Toorpakai Wazir is a world champion in squash.
  • Maryam Mirzakhani was the first female mathematician to win the Fields Award—the highest honor in mathematics.
  • Muzoon Almellehan is a Syrian refugee who spoke about the importance of education at the UN.
  • Negin Farsad is a comedian.
  • Nura Afia is a makeup artist and advocate for beauty equality.
  • Kamala Khan is a superhero! While she is fictional, there are two amazing Muslim women behind her character: G. Willow Wilson is the author behind the comic book series, and Sana Amanat is the artist at Marvel Comics who teamed up with Wilson to create her.
  • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a filmmaker.
  • Shirin Ebadi has been a judge and a lawyer, and she was the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Each spread includes an illustration of the featured woman at work, a quote from her, and her story. The stories focus on how the women turned their childhood interests into a way to be their most authentic selves and change the world.

The women who are included represent a range of interests and careers across the arts, sports, intellectual pursuits, and activism.

“Never take no for an answer. If a door hasn’t opened up for you, it’s because you haven’t kicked it hard enough.”

—Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

A copy of this book belongs in every classroom and library, and while this book is intended for children, I can see it being of interest to people of all ages.

Muslim Girls Rise is out from Simon and Schuster on 10/29 and you can find it here: Goodreads | Simon and Schuster | Amazon.com | Book Depository

I received an ARC of Muslim Girls Rise from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

More to the Story

Hena Khan’s newest middle grade novel is inspired by Little Women and follows a family of four sisters—Maryam, Jameela, Bisma, and Aleeza—living in Atlanta.

Thirteen-year-old Jameela (aka Jam) wants to be a journalist and make a real change in the world. She’s frustrated with the fluffy pieces that her editor-in-chief at the school newspaper is publishing. When she meets Ali, a family friend who has moved to Atlanta from the UK, she thinks this might be her chance to write an award-winning story. But things don’t go quite as planned. On top of that, her dad has taken a job across the world for six months, and then the family receives some scary news about about Bisma.

I really love Jam’s character: she is fierce with the world and supportive and protective of her sisters. She is brave, speaking up for what she knows is right and going after what she wants. She uses her strengths to make her family’s lives better. 

This book takes its inspiration from Little Women, but Alcott doesn’t get in the way of Khan’s writing at all. Despite being familiar with the original story, I was able to tune it out and enjoy More to the Story on its own. After I finished reading the novel, it was easy to connect the dots, and I really appreciate the way that Khan imagined Little Women in contemporary times. I also liked the way that the original story inspired the family dynamics in this book: the  closeness between Jam and her dad, the support and protectiveness between the sisters, and the close relationship between the mom and dad. 

Something that I didn’t care for was the budding romantic feelings between eighth-grade Ali and seventh-grade Jam. In this age group, not every story needs to include romance, and I dislike it when the reciprocation of feelings is linked to some kind of validation.

As far as the Muslim representation goes, I’m always happy to see Muslims represented in literature, and I know that representation will take many shapes, as it should. In More to the Story, the family is a Muslim family of Pakistani descent living in Atlanta. Although the parents don’t drink alcohol and the girls don’t date, only the mom tries to pray regularly. This is definitely one way that people practice Islam in the US, and it deserves a place in literature. But every time a book is marketed as about a Muslim family or is published by an imprint focusing on Muslim stories, I feel hopeful that this book will reflect the Muslim American experience of my community. And I’m usually disappointed. Only S. K. Ali and Uzma Jalaluddin have reflected that experience, and it’s not nearly enough. So while I appreciate More to the Story and I believe that Hena Khan is playing a vital role by representing her community, it’s on publishers to make sure there’s a variety of Muslim experiences being represented. 

I recommend this book for readers who enjoy middle grade and are interested in Muslim rep, Pakistani-American rep, or stories about cancer, microaggressions, or ethics in journalism.

More to the Story is out from Simon and Schuster on 9/3 and you can find it here: Goodreads | Simon and Schuster | Amazon.com | Book Depository

I received an eARC of More to the Story from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.