Written by: Samira Ahmed
Cover Art by: art by Dana Ledl, design by Karina Granda
For ages: YA 12 years and up
Language: English, some Arabic.
Topics Covered: Islamophobia, Internment, Violence, Military Action, Oppression, History, Subversion, Independent Thought, Activism, Friendship, Love, Growing Up, Relationships.
For #sweetsandsocialjustice I wanted to make a pairing where the food was reminiscent of the book. So I made these super flat and chewy chocolate oatmeal cookies to represent the landscape where the book takes place. The dusty camp is in the desert, and the chocolate I used was super dark (I only had 73% cacao hanging around) and almost bitter. I dubbed them “adult cookies” because they’re not very sweet and have a nutty taste from the almond flour.
I really enjoyed this book. The plot takes events ripped straight from the news, and an unnamed bigoted American president has followed through on the Muslim travel ban. Continuing on, Muslim citizens find themselves being fired from jobs and subject to a strict curfew. Layla Amin is a teenager wishing things would go back to normal, when she and her Jewish boyfriend David were free to show PDA in school, and go out on dates at night. However, one night after a close call sneaking back after curfew, Layla is in her room when she sees a van pull up in front of her house and a group of soldiers in unfamiliar fatigues. Layla and her parents are taken from their home and transported to the first Muslim Internment camp, which the Director of the camp hopes to be a model for future camps to open all across the country. At the camp, life is dismal. However, Layla finds some friends. Some are also interned with her, and some are in charge of keeping the internees subordinate. Can Layla’s guard friend be trusted?
I read this book in a single day, despite it being almost 400 pages. I really enjoyed it, and was hooked instantly. Layla draws parallels between what is happening to her and the concentration camps of WWII, showing how white complicitness can lead to destruction. I would have loved at least a chapter in between the end and the Epilogue, it felt rushed. But also, I was enjoying the book so much I would have gladly read the story split into 2 books, giving room for more story. The book is a call to action to never become complicit, and specifically to those of us with white privilege to use it on behalf of marginalized groups. In the back is a wonderful and emotional author’s note, which I urge everyone to read.
- 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (I use either Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur 1:1 if baking gluten free)
- 1/2 c ground almond flour
- 1 t baking powder
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1 t salt (I use coarse kosher)
- 1 c softened salted butter
- 1 1/2 c dark brown sugar
- 1/2 c maple sugar (white granulated is also fine)
- 2 eggs
- 2 c oats
- 1 T vanilla extract
- 6 oz. chopped chocolate (I like super dark to make it less sweet)
Combine dries (except oats) into a bowl and whisk together, set aside. Cream butter and sugars, adding eggs afterward one at a time. Add dries and mix until just combined. Add oats and vanilla. Stir in chocolate. Pop dough in freezer for 15-20 minutes, or in the fridge for a few hours. Scoop onto sheet and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, allow to set on cookies sheet for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack.
About the Author:
Born in Bombay India and raised outside of Chicago, Illinois, Samira Ahmed spent countless hours at the library in her small hometown nestled in an oversized armchair next to an old Victorian fireplace with her nose in an Agatha Christie novel or re-reading Little Women, hoping that Jo would somehow end up with Laurie this time. Samira always loved to write—especially poetry–-but never actually dreamed of becoming a writer until she was an adult and an idea for a story captured her imagination and wouldn’t let go.
She received her BA and MAT from the University of Chicago and went on to teach high school English in both the suburbs of Chicago and the New York City Public Schools. After she left the classroom, she worked in education non-profits, helping to create more than seventy small high schools in New York City and fought to secure billions of dollars in public school funding throughout New York State.
These days, Samira lives in Chicago, Illinois. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found on her lifelong quest for the perfect pastry.