Sunday, June 19, 2016

Coming of Age as a Muslim American Teen

I met author Farhana Zia in Boston when we were both panelists at a National Council of Teachers of English conference. Lucky me! That's when I first learned of this terrific middle-grade book.

The Garden of My Imaan is about an ordinary middle-school American girl, Aliya, struggling to fit it. Well, maybe not so ordinary. In addition to dealing with mean girls and wondering if the cute guy likes her, she's navigating a visit from her ethnic grandma (the passages with grandma are pretty hilarious) and comparing herself to the seemingly-perfect Muslim girl from Morocco who appears to know herself well and be confident in her faith and culture. Meanwhile, Aliya anguishes: should she wear the hijab and appear even more different to her non-Muslim classmates? She's old enough: should she fast during Ramadan?

This is a great read for middle-school kids, not simply because the characters are delightful and their struggles real, but also because it presents lots of information about Muslim faith and how various cultures practice differently.

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