Monday, March 29, 2021

Amina's Song by Hena Khan

We first met Amina Khokar, a middle grader living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in Amina's Voice. She's a Pakistani American and even though she has perfect pitch and a beautiful singing voice, she also had crippling stage fright. With the support of family, especially her uncle Thaya Jaan visiting from Pakistan, and friends, Amina was able to ultimately perform in public.

Now, Amina and her family are spending their summer vacation visiting family in Lahore, Pakistan. Amina has fallen in love with the country and has become very close to her cousin Zohra, Thaya Jaan's daughter. Just before they leave Pakistan to return home, Thaya Jaan challenges her to "show people in America the beauty of Pakistan. They don't know this place like you do now." How, Amina wonders, is she supposed to the that?

Back home, Amina and her friends are starting 7th grade, but to her disappointment, no one seems interested in hearing about her trip to Pakistan. However, when her history teacher gives the class an interactive learning assignment on the first day of class, Amina may have just found the outlet she needs for carrying out Thaya Jaan's challenge. Students must pick a person from history who has made a positive contribution and thoroughly research them, to the point of becoming the person they pick by the end of the term.  

Amina is excited to pick Malala Yousafzai, but when she presents her initial report to the class, it isn't her accomplishments that the class focuses on, but rather the oppressive conditions by the Taliban in Pakistan with regard to women and girls. Again, Amina is disappointed and frustrated. What can she do to help people know the Pakistan she loves so much?

Meanwhile, Amina meets Nico, a new kids in school who is also very much interested in music and has a real talent for mixing to create different sounds. Encouraged by her music teacher, Ms. Holly, Amina has been playing around with composing songs to express herself. She's been keep a diary of her thoughts and feelings for a while, recognizing that her experiences have changed her, but unable to express them quite the way she wants. Could a song be the answer with Nico's help?   

On top of that, Amina learns that her uncle Thaya Jaan has become ill again and will require delicate heart surgery.  Seventh grade is proving to be a year of changes, challenges, identity questions and more for 12-year-old Amina Khokar, all of which makes for a very satisfying sequel. 

In Amina's Voice, most of the conflicts in Amina's life were external, but in Amina's Song, they are more internal, having to do with who she is and is becoming. Though Amina is changing and growing up, she narrates her life with the same open honesty as in Amina's Voice, even when things aren't going as well as they could. And she is still somewhat flawed, which makes her a very interesting character. I felt she is a more confident girl and I liked especially liked seeing the changes she goes through, even challenging some of her mother's control. I have to admit, the way she handled the history project and her uncle's challenge surprised me and at first seemed so out character, but then I also cheered her on for it, even if her teacher was not receptive. 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Amina's Song and wondered if there might be a third novel in the making, since this one left a few loose ends that could be tied up nicely. Meanwhile, I highly recommend this to fans of Amina's and to those who haven't met her, though I might consider reading book one first. There are references to it in Amina's Song, but they are made clear in Amina's Voice

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

1 comment:

  1. I feel like it's been some time since I read Amina's Voice but I will have to pick this one up as well sometime!


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