Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster, 2017
Amina is entering middle school in her home town of Milwaukee. She and her brother struggle with bridging their traditional Muslin home life with Pakistani parents and their very American school life and being submerged in American culture. Changes at home occur when Amina's religiously conservative uncle visits for three months from Pakistan, bringing with him expectations from the old country. Changes occur at school as Amina's best friend's family finally gains citizenship and Soojin plans to change her Korean name to Susan and brings a new girl, Emily, into their former group of two. Even though Emily seems nice, Amina can't help feeling jealous about her budding friendship with Soojim. After Amina spills one of Emily's secrets both Emily and Soojin are mad and seem to no longer want to be friends. Will Amina now have no school friends? Meanwhile, Amina's parents and uncle are prodding her to enter a recitation contest from the Koran. Amina is so shy and, even though she has musical talent, she cannot find the courage to sing in front of an audience. Will she be able to recite in front of a group? Of all Amina's problems become inconsequential when an act of hate shakes her entire religious community. Help comes from unexpected sources and Amina realizes what community really means and finds her inner courage to share the gifts that God has given her.
Amina's Voice is the premier title in Simon and Schuster's new "Salaam Reads" Imprint, aimed at introducing books for all age levels to young people of all faiths featuring Muslin characters. Amina's Voice is a middle grade novel centered around an American Muslim family, who is trying to find the balance between being true to the teachings of the Koran, while also celebrating what it means to be American. The uncle character further emphasizes this struggle and forces Amina's family to navigate through these delicate waters and create a new identity combining both cultures. Many young people will identify with Amina's embarrassment of her immigrant parents, who are different and feel the universal American conflict of merging cultures to make an over-all functional society. Beyond the cultural themes, this book presents a basic friendship triangle, which is the root of much middle school conflict. Girls, especially, will relate to Amina's feelings of jealously and fear of change as Soojin seems to grow away from her. A terrible hate incident towards the end brings the book to a climax and changes the whole tone of the story. The incident. though at first seems to isolate the Muslim community, unites all of Milwaukee regardless of religion and helps Amina to repair the damage to her friendships and find courage within herself. Instead of scaring Amina away, the violence helps her to find her voice, quite literally, and turns a terrible act of violence into a catalyst bringing community and cultures together. The merging of religion and friendship brought me back to reading Are You There God Its Me Margaret. Muslim girls will be so happy to see themselves in a book and girls everywhere will enjoy this read and maybe learn a little about their neighbors.