The Proudest Blue

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


the proudest blue

The Proudest Blue, written by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S. K. Ali, tells the story of Faizah’s thoughts and feelings as her older sister wears a hijab to school for the first time.

The day begins with Faizah excited—excited about school, about her light-up shoes, and about walking alongside her princess of a sister in her new blue hijab. When a friend asks about Asiya’s hijab, Faizah’s answer comes out in a whisper, and she starts to feel unsure, because “Asiya’s hijab isn’t a whisper. Asiya’s hijab is like the sky on a sunny day.” She is reassured when she asks Asiya if she’s excited about her hijab, and Asiya nods and smiles big. Faizah also takes comfort in her mother’s words: “The first day of wearing hijab is important. . . . It means being strong.” During art, she draws a picture of herself and Asiya in matching blue scarves. After the whisper, Faizah likewise deals with a laugh and a shout in the same way: by drawing on her sister’s calm strength and her mother’s words.

There is so much to love about this book. I love the way Faizah is proud of her sister. I love the way Asiyah owns her hijab and her faith and her right to be her. I love the way Faizah remembers her mother’s words while seeing Asiya’s actions, drawing strength from both of them.

The illustrations, by the talented Hatem Aly, are some of my favorite picture book illustrations ever. They are perfect: the way that Faizah and Asiya sometimes appear in front of a muted background, so that they stand out as the queens that they are; the way that unkind people appear as shadows, reflecting their unimportance; and the facial expressions that expand on the text by showing how Asiya’s friends support her.

From a craft point of view, The Proudest Hijab is brilliant. It adapts a topic about older kids for a picture book audience while showcasing the relationship between the two girls and, by extension, their mother, creating a web of female faith and strength. I can’t recommend it enough for all readers.

Find it here: Goodreads | Little, Brown | Bookshop.org | Amazon.com | Book Depository


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.

Children’s Books Featuring Black Characters
Black Books Matter: Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys
Broadening the Story: 60 Picture Books Starring Black Mighty Girls

“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/

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.