Sunday, May 24, 2020

MMGM: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices, edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Here is a collection of 15 very different, but all well-crafted stories that give readers a glimpse into lives of young Muslim girls and boys as they prepare for the joyous celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr, a time marking the end of Ramadan and fasting and Eid-al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice. And although the writers of these stories come from diverse places and backgrounds, it is the shared belief and practice of their Islamic faith that is the common thread in all these stories, and yet, their stories reflect the many cultural traditions, experiences and themes within their faith. But do not think that these stories are for Muslim readers only, no indeed, they are meant for everyone to enjoy. As the editors write in their epigraph:

"Bismillah. For all readers who know Eid joy, and for all who want to share in it."

In her story "Perfect," Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow explores themes of family, judging, acceptance, and learning to be friends. Hawa, 12, her mom and dad head out of Philadelphia to visit her dad's relatives for an Eid celebration in the Bronx, NY. It is not a visit Hawa is looking forward to. Black American on her mom's side, Hawa's dad's family is from Guinea and most don't speak much English, except for her perfect cousin Fanta, who not only speaks perfect English, but already cooks, and bakes, and is, as far as Hawa is concerned, a major suck up. But when Fanta accuses Hawa of being stuck up, things come to a head between the two girls. Have they always had the wrong impression about each other?

The color blue takes center stage in N.H. Senzai's "Searching for Blue." Bassem, 12, his younger sister Dina, and his mom have fled war-torn Syria and arrived, unwanted by most, on a small Greek island. Now, it's almost Eid, his father's favorite holiday. How can Bassem celebrate with his dad gone, and his family living in a converted factory with a shared kitchen with other refugees. Besides, there are no ingredients for making any of the tasty Eid food he remembers so well, But on his way to work, an idea comes to Bassem and maybe, just maybe the joy of Eid could be found even in this gloomy, overcrowded, run down refugee camp. Senzai has really captured what it feels like to be an unwanted refugee, trying to escape the war that has taken away your life, your father and grandparents, and left you with so little, and the joy and hope that comes from remembering just what Eid is really about - faith and community.

One of the funniest stories is "Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake" by Aisha Saeed. As last minute preparations for his family's traditional Eid brunch the next day get underway, Yusuf and his mom prepare their favorite Eid brownie recipe, while sister Roshan breaks with tradition and makes a fruit tart. This year's Eid is a big celebration with over 50 people, so everything needs to be perfect. The next day, feeling pretty confident, Yusuf puts his brownies into the oven and goes upstairs to help his best friend Erza figure out how to set up his new video game. It sure is easy to lose track of time when it comes to video games, and that's just what happens. When Yusuf pulls out a pan of burnt brownies, he learns a good lesson about eating humble pie, having appreciation for others, and a great family secret.

Once Upon an Eid certainly lives up to its promise of hope and joy. This wonderful collection of short stories (there is even a story in graphic format), aimed a middle grade readers, is filled with love,  humor, some grief and loss, even some disappointment but always centered around faith, family, and community.

All together, this anthology offers young Muslim readers 15 wonderfully realistic stories they can relate to, and a window into these important celebrations for non-Muslim readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was an EARC gratefully received from NetGalley

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle.


  1. I've seen some praise for this book previously, and your review really makes me want to read this book! I appreciate your mentions of some of the specific stories in the book. Thanks so much for the great review!

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I love some good short literature.

  3. THank you for bringing this book to our attention! I've already added it to my list. I love to read and share stories that help teens realize how connected we really are, no matter what our belief system. Excellent review!

  4. Such a great sounding collection of stories. Read-aloud and discussion possibilities have me clamoring to get a copy. Thanks for the heads-up on this informative and inspiring title.

  5. I hadn't heard of this. There certainly is a need for better access to the Muslim experience, and this book seems a good way for youngsters to better understand that experience. Thanks for telling me about this book.


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