Amina's Voice

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Middle school can be a time of change.  Friends from elementary school start "liking" people and wearing lip gloss and making new friends.  Sometimes you have a hard time figuring out who you are in the middle of it all.  Pakistani-American  Muslim Amina Khokar is in that spot.  She and her Korean-American friend Soojin have been BFFs since the early years of elementary school.  They've shared the feelings of being different and they hold each other's worst moments in their best friend memory hall of shame/fame.

But this year, Soojin is changing.  When the teacher assigns the class to compete in a journey along the Oregon Trail, Soojin invites Emily to be part of their group project.  Amina can't believe it.  This is the Emily who followed the queen bee around, laughing at her dumb jokes and joining in on making fun of Amina nd Soojin.

Amina has some challenges at home, too.  Her uncle is flying in from Pakistan.  He's a pretty intense Muslim and even Amina's parents are worried that the way they live and are raising their family may not meet with his strict standards.

This is an outstanding glimpse into the everyday lives of some Muslim middle school and high school kids.  It's as though we've been invited into their home via a reality television show and have a chance to see and appreciate who it feels to worry about people smelling your mother's cooking on your clothes or how frightened you are to get up in front of people to sing even though you might be good enough to think about competing on The Voice one day.

Worrying about memorizing the Quran, going to Sunday school, wearing a kameez might not be part of your everyday life but friends, parents, the pressure of relatives, fears of being judged for being different...these are everyday feelings of all middle schoolers.

The story is a gift.  It pulls back the perceptions to get right down to the human level of family life no matter where you worship.  Eye rolling is pretty universal.  Rebellious older brothers are pretty universal.  Younger sisters who want to see their television show are familiar to all.

Read side by side with the Secret Language of Girls, Save Me a Seat, It Ain't So Awful Falafel, this would make a terrific discussion book for walking in someone else's shoes and realizing that our cultural differences don't surpass our shared human experience.

187 pages                 978-1481492065            Ages 9-13

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.--from the publisher

978-1481492065 Ages 8-12 197 pages

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