Amina is a Pakistani-American, who lives in Milwaukee with her parents and her brother. She is a talented singer, but never got on stage after a disastrous stage-fright incident in her second grade. Her best friend Soojin’s new attitude, and a new friendly addition to their cafeteria table, makes Amina insecure. With the new background of middle-school, Amina has to endure the test of friendship, an horrifying event at her community center, and also explore her faith in an unwelcoming place she calls her home.
• The writing style and narration were comparably good, than the other diverse books out there. Hena Khan’s voice is lucid and easy to read, which made the book even better.
• The exploration of cultural differences and morals were done without a note of criticism, or cynicism. Amina is comfortable in her American culture, but she doesn’t go on about how her Pakistani parents are naïve and conservative.
• Amina’s family was very relatable. I loved that Hena Khan decided to show the inner aspects of a Muslim family. Amina’s relationship with her parents, and her brother felt very close to home.“Basketball?” Baba frowns. “No, no. Why basketball? Timothy next door tells me his son is captain of the chess team. You should do that.
• The essence of a middle-grader and her insecurities were very well captured. Hena Khan definitely understands perspective, and she makes sure to let her readers live along with her character.“I kind of want to tell him that I’m proud of him for making the team. And I wish he had been at dinner last night. But I don’t. We don’t say stuff like that to each other.”
• Her concerns about people not getting her name right, Super relatable!!“Because even though I don’t know why, something about Soojin wanting to drop her name makes me worry that I might be next.”
• Amina’s mother is THE BEST.
So there was this important part of the story, about Amina and her music. Hena Khan throws light on the acceptance of music in Islam, which is, like, super important. But I’m not sure she addressed it in a proper way. Like, yeah, music is deemed haram generally, that is, unacceptable in Islam. Most people don’t buy into it because many sources states that music was practiced in the Prophet’s time. While others say that the Quran has stated music as unnecessary provocation and waste of time. None of the cited sources are actually found to be reliable. But the novel states that music is acceptable, and a singer’s talent should be appreciated. Now, I am not against that part, but I wanted the book to let the reader’s choose whether or not they want to believe whatever she says, rather than making a choice themselves. Because, a book is a big influence on a person’s life, so any Muslim reading the book might think that it is completely fine to listen to music and tempted to do it even if they hadn’t been into songs earlier. Like, I was super into songs sometime back, but when I learned that music might be haram, I stopped listening to it, not wanting to risk it, but now the book tells me otherwise. I know, this is completely up to the person and his belief, but a book just cannot simply make its own laws on the behalf of religion.
Other than that, the book was completely enjoyable. It is important, and also it doesn’t misinterpret terrorism and islamophobia.
Overall, this book provides a good look into the life of a normal Muslim family, a middle-grader trying to overcome her fears, and the importance of community, friendships and unity. Totally recommended.