Sunday, March 5, 2017

Amina's Voice by Hena Khan


Amina Khokar, a Pakistani American Muslim girl living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has just started sixth grade in middle school and already she is wishing she were back in elementary school. Everything feels different. To begin with, her best friend, Korean-born Soojin Park is about to become a citizen and is thinking about changing her Korean name for something more American. And no sooner has school begun, but Soojin begins to hang out with Emily. Emily had been friends with Julie, and the two of them used to make fun of Soojin and Amina in elementary school. While Soojin seems to accept Emily, Amina is have a lot of difficulty with her hanging around with them. It doesn't take long for a misunderstanding between Soojin and Amina to make them stop speaking.

To add to Amina's stress, she is told that her great uncle is coming for a three month visit from Pakistan, and Thaya Jaan is a very strict Muslim. What will he think of their American ways, and the music Amina loves to play on the piano? It doesn't take long to find out when Amina overhears a conversation between her father and uncle, who tells him that music is forbidden on Islam, and she should be focusing on memorizing Quran.

Meanwhile, older brother Mustafa has been acting up, his grades went way down in middle school and all he seems interested in is texting his friends or watching TV.Now in high school, Mustafa wants to try out for the basketball team, much to his parents chagrin. Mama and Baba have definite ideas about what their children's accomplishments should be and basketball isn't one of them.

But the Quran recitation competition to be held at their Islamic Center is exactly what Mama and Baba have in mind for Amina and Mustafa, and should please Thaya Jaan, who is quite knowledgeable of the Quran and willing to help his niece and nephew practice their Urdu pronunciation.

There's only one problem - Amina can speak in public, she simply freezes up. Which is a shame, considering that she plays the piano so well, has perfect pitch, a beautiful singing voice and more than anything wants to perform in public.

Amina already has a lot on her plate but when vandals destroys her beloved Islamic Center, she learns to true meaning of family, friendship, and community. When the Park's Presbyterian church offers to hold the Quran competition and the Islamic Center's annual carnival, will Amina be able to find her voice and recite the surah (chapter) she had chosen from the Quran for the competition?

Amina's Voice is one of the first novels to come out of the new Simon & Schuster imprint Salaam Reads. I found it to be timely, interesting and a charming coming of age story. Khan has seamlessly incorporated aspects of Amina's life as a young Pakistani American Muslim girl living in a mostly white community. Her family is loving, supportive, and warm, though her brother a little rebellious, after all, he is a teen. Even the strict uncle is not an unmovable, judgmental force that one meets so often in novels where religion plays a major part in everyday life. He is actually quite warm and loving as well. All this makes the novel a very believable and very relatable story that readers who are not Muslim can also relate to, especially those who go to Sunday School in church where there were lots of family activities to bring people together (I still love a good potluck supper).

Khan has given Amina a really genuine voice, always reflective of her age, her circumstances, and her emotions. She is, however, a nicely flawed middle grader. Her problems don't just revolve around her religion, but also her friends and especially her difficulty in accepting Emily, and her jealousy when she sees Soojin and Emily growing closer and dealing with her feelings of being left out.

I can't recommend Amina's Voice highly enough and I can't wait to see what the future holds for the Salaam Reads imprint.

Amina's Voice will be available on March 14, 2017

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger at Book Ramblings, and Plenty of Shenanigans

2 comments:

  1. Hello Alex, this sounds fascinating, and I would love to read it. I didn’t know Simon & Schuster had a new imprint called Salaam Reads I must Google it.

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  2. Excited that this one's almost out!

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