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/

Love from A to Z

If a YA novel is about a female Muslim protagonist who falls for a guy, the chances are that he is a non-Muslim. This is annoying to me not because it doesn’t happen, but because the opposite happens, too, and is so infrequently written about. S. K. Ali’s newest contemporary YA novel, Love from A to Z, is about that sadly neglected story line—what happens when a Muslim guy and girl fall for each other. It’s well-written and complex: the characters, who are both relatable and endearing, each have their own issues to deal with, and it is so refreshing to see a YA novel that tells a romance story with practicing Muslim characters.

This is the story of Adam and Zayneb, who meet in Doha over spring break. But it’s not really spring break for Adam because he’s not going back to school. He’s just been diagnosed with MS, which his mother died of years ago. Zayneb’s spring break is also complicated: she’s taking it one week early after being suspended for a run-in with an Islamophobic teacher at her high school. After a serendipitous initial meeting in a London airport, Zayneb and Adam meet again in Doha:  Zayneb’s aunt, who she’s staying with, is an old friend of Adam’s mother.

The book has a (delightfully sage) narrator who begins and ends the book and also butts in in the middle for an interlude. But the majority of the book is told through the journal entries of Adam and Zayneb. In an (again) serendipitous turn of events, they both keep a journal called Marvels and Oddities, in which they record the marvels (wonderful things) and oddities (not-so-wonderful things) they experience. True to his character, Adam’s journals are full of marvels. If you were to ask Adam what he wants most in the world, he would say peace. Zayneb’s journals are full of oddities, and if you asked her the same question, she would say justice. Throughout the book, Zayneb’s struggle is how to harness her anger into beneficial action that will have long-lasting effects. Adam’s struggle is to go after what he wants. Their struggles are real and timely, and I found the ending really satisfying.

I highly recommend this heartwarming and powerful YA novel about falling in love, believing in yourself, and trusting in your community of friends and allies.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Find it here: Goodreads | Simon and Schuster | Amazon.com | Book Depository

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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!

Ramadan Readathon Book Tag

I’m doing my first tag today—the Ramadan Readathon Book Tag, which was created by Amna over at YA Reading Corner. This is a bit more personal than my usual book reviews, so I hope it’s a fun way to get to know one another a little better. 🙂

Ramadan Readathon Book Tag

~*Mirrors and Windows*~

Name a book that you felt represented you or that you were able to relate to.

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali is the first book that I read and was able to say: Yes! that’s the community I grew up in!

~*My Muslim Hero/Heroine*~

Name your favorite Muslim character and explain why.

Kamala Khan from the Ms. Marvel comic book series because she’s a badass with a good heart. What better combination?

~*Patience is a virtue*~

Name your most anticipated read by a Muslim author.

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin is a Pride and Prejudice reboot with Muslim characters. Uhhh, yes please! It comes out June 12 in Canada.

~*Muslim Scribe*~

Name your favorite Muslim author.

I don’t really have a favorite Muslim author. I read everything I can get my hands on, and will try everyone once, and most people twice. 🙂

~*The Muslim Shelf*~

Recommend one book by a Muslim author that everyone should read.

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn. Yes! A picture book! Because everyone can enjoy a gorgeously illustrated picture book, and this one shows the beauty and power of one of Islam’s most misunderstood symbols (the hijab.) I think it’s a fabulous tool for understanding and peace. 

Let me know your answers to any of these questions or if you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned.

Happy Ramadan!

Discussion—Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

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WARNING: The following discussion contains spoilers! In other words, this post reveals what happens in the book. If you have NOT read Saints and Misfits, here is my non-spoiler review.

As I mentioned in my review, I absolutely loved this book. I found the realistic representation of a Muslim community spot-on. Janna’s voice was great. Ali weaves together all of the different subplots and tucks in the ends in subtle ways that I really appreciated. When a book is that awesome, the few things that I didn’t like or that I didn’t get stand out more. View Post