A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

avleos

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons breakdancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down. [Taken from the publisher’s blurb.]

I really enjoyed this YA contemporary about a Muslim high school student who is the victim of constant microaggressions. 

The main character, Shirin, is the best part of this book for me. She is such a complex and fantastic character. So used to being disappointed, she has given up on her fellow human beings, and even stops looking at the people around her, out of fear. But she’s so smart, beautiful, and badass that she intimidates everyone. So the irony of the shell she’s built up around herself is that she’s put it up for her own protection, but everyone else thinks they need protection from her. View Post

Zaid and the Gigantic Cloud by Helal Musleh and illustrated by Sabrina Pichardo

zaid

Zaid has been looking forward to his uncle’s annual camping trip and is really disappointed when it gets cancelled. He spends the night feeling bad about missing out, and when he wakes up the next morning, he finds a gray cloud above his head. At school, his bad day keeps getting worse and worse: winter is coming, he has to sit at the back of the bus, and on and on. And the gray cloud grows bigger and bigger.

View Post

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

614ClzmOf3L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_

No words to describe this stunning new book from Khaled Hosseini. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, this book is a prayer from a father for his son as they wait to board a boat. The writing is as heartbreakingly beautiful as the illustrations are evocative.

IMG_20180918_190251_475

It begins with the father’s memories of the Syria before: “the creek where your uncles and I built a thousand boyhood dams.”

. . . moves into the reality of this generation’s Syria: “You know a bomb crater can be made into a swimming hole.”

. . . and ends with the sea: “how vast, how indifferent. How powerless I am to protect you from it.”

IMG_20180918_190255_456

It’s a book that’s not easy to classify. Perhaps “an illustrated poem inspired by true events and intended for adults” is the closest I can get. In any case, it’s one of my favorite books of the year.

IMG_20180918_185557
Part of the proceeds go to UNHCR, so go get your copy now.

Malcolm X for the Whole Family

IMG_20180913_144417.jpg

Today I have Malcolm X for the whole family: a picture book for children, a YA novel for teens, and, of course, Malcolm X’s autobiography for the rest of us. View Post

Review—Communicating with Allah by Bassem Saeh

6130AMwKE1L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_

Once upon a time, Bassem Saeh was asked to speak at an event about prayer (salah). When the time came, he rushed up to the podium and hurriedly read a few verses and a couple of hadeeth he had jotted down on a piece of paper, reading so quickly that his words ran together. He then turned and left. The audience was shocked and confused. After a moment, he returned to the podium and explained that his performance was no worse than the way that many of us pray. Rushing in, reciting without expression or understanding, and rushing off again.

Communicating with Allah: Rediscovering Prayer is Saeh’s answer to the problem of disconnecting from our distracting, modern lives and finding tranquility in our connection with Allah. Unique and powerful, this book breathes new life into an action that Muslims repeat constantly. If you are looking to worship smarter, a little bit of consistency in improving the quality of your five daily prayers will go a long way. View Post