Tag Archives: Muslim Identity

Muslim Girls Rise

Written by: Saira Mir

Illustrated by: Aaliya Jaleel

For ages: 8-13 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Muslim Women, Trailblazers, Historical Figures, Self-Empowerment, Feminism, Sports, Culture & Identity, Global Community, Own Voices. 

Summary: 

This book is a lovely book, almost anthology-like, of 18 Muslim girls (and women) that are changing the world and blazing trails.  Some are well-known public figures like Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, and champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.  Others, like Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah and comedian Negin Farsad might be less known.  The beauty of this book is that the short single page profiles of these strong and intelligent women is that they span the globe and professional career market.  Sports, fashion, legislation, and STEM.  These women are fantastic role models for any job aspirations!

Muslim Girls Rise is a wonderful addition to any bookshelf, and having these women as inspiration to pursue one’s own interests and dreams.  Unfortunately also, Islamophobia is so prevalent that this book can also serve as a line of defense.  Collecting stories of strength and resilience helps a person develop their own, and have individuals to look up to in times of hardship or perhaps deciding on what career trajectory to take.  Either way, these short stories will inspire any reader to change the world in their own way!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

SARIA MIR is a Muslim physician from Washington, DC, who has searched far and wide for books to help her daughter find feminist role models who share her heritage. Saira wrote Muslim Girls Rise for her, and hopes to share it with other children eager to learn more about these extraordinary, path-breaking women.

 

 

 

 

aaliya-45AALIYA JALEEL is a freelance illustrator, character designer, and visual development artist. She is currently majoring in animation at the University of Texas at Dallas with plans to work as a visual development artist after graduation.

Common Threads: Adam’s Day at the Market

Written by: Huda Essa

Illustrated by: Mercè Tous

For ages: 4 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Global Community, Family, Diversity, Kindness, Clothing, Islam, Culture & Traditions. 

Summary: Adam and his parents go to the outdoor market one day, and he sees a bright blue jay.  Following it, Adam doesn’t realize he’s left his parents behind until he tugs on what he thinks is his mother’s tunic but it turns out to be a nun’s dress.  Adam tries to identify his parents clothes in the crowd, only to realize that many different types of people dress in similar ways!  The individuals that Adam mistakes for his parents work together to bring them back together, and connect to each other in the process.

This book has few words, and the rich illustrations do the majority of the plot development.  Adam and his parents live in a diverse community that is wonderfully represented by the similarities in clothing that Adam mistakes for his parents.  The emphasis on community in this story is timely, some people live in fear of differences or the unknown.  In the beginning as well as the end of the book are statements about the power of community and diversity, and how we are stronger together.  This is a really beautiful book that can teach fantastic cultural vocabulary about garments along with the other messaging it promotes.

This book was sent to us by Sleeping Bear Press as an entry in the Best Books of 2019 List, but all opinions and decision to review were our own!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

huda_finalHuda Essa has been a teacher since she was a child. Her first students were her stuffed animals. When she became a teacher as a grown up, she loved finally having human children as her students! Now, as a speaker and author, Huda is a teacher to adult humans, too. Huda’s debut book, Teach Us Your Name, and her TEDx Talk, “Your Name is the Key!” teach us to use our names to learn more about ourselves and to embrace our wonderful human diversity. Huda teaches all over the world, but lives in Michigan. You can visit her LinkedIn here!

pintant-300x292Mercè Tous lives and works “in Barcelona, my place of birth. I love being near the sea and make the most of the wide range of cultural activities and opportunities for social networking this cosmopolitan city offers. However, whenever I can, I return to nature, my main source of inspiration.

Since I was a child I have always liked drawing, painting and immersing myself in pictures and illustrated books. My grandfather was my first art teacher, who passed on to me the passion for art, instilled in me the curiosity, the value of hard working and the satisfaction of doing a good job. I like all the art disciplines, and I have discovered with illustration a means to search beauty, to tell stories and to express my particular perspective of what surrounds me. I think that having an artistic profession is a chance to make a journey to discover the depth of oneself and, at the same time, to open to the world.

I graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona in 2008. Then I obtained the Art Teacher Certification in the same university. I carried on my education pursuing a postgraduate course specializing in children’s and youth’s book illustration at “Escola Eina” (Autonomous University of Barcelona) as well as three annual courses of illustration at “Escola de la Dona” lead by Ignasi Blanch and other great illustrators such as Cristina Losantos and Roger Olmos. I’ve also participated in several illustration workshops in Barcelona and Italy leaded by illustrators that I admire such as Octavia Monaco, Rebecca Lucciani, Mariona Cabassa and Joanna Concejo. Nowadays I work as a freelance illustrator.”

 

The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

Written by: Sabina Khan

Cover Art by:

For ages: YA book

Language: English

Topics Covered: LGBTQ, Family, Marriage, Independence, Love, Acceptance, LGBTQ Violence, Homophobia, Bangladeshi Culture & Traditions.

Summary: I could NOT put this book down.  I was instantly hooked.  Warning: you will feel ALL the emotions during this read.

Rukhsana is a teenager, just a few months away from graduation.  Rukhsana’s parents are Bangladeshi, and very strict.  They have no idea that she is dating a white girl named Ariana.  Rukhsana’s parents in fact, would love to arrange a marriage for her but Rukhsana is able to secure a full ride to CalTech for physics and bide some time before that happens.  However, one day Ariana is over and Rukhsana’s mother catches them kissing.  All of a sudden, she is whisked away to Bangladesh to visit her “ailing grandmother”, but then ulterior motives are uncovered and Rukhsana is informed she is not allowed to leave the country until she agrees to a formal engagement with a suitable husband-to-be.  After a botched escape plan where Rukhsana’s passport hiding place is discovered and a tumultuous fight with Ariana over the phone, she feels alone and defeated.  Rukhsana is then informed she must be married before leaving the country, locked in a room, and a shaman is called to perform an exorcism of the bad spirit (jinn) that is making her act so disobedient.  Then Rukhsana meets someone named Sohail, a boy whose parents are pushing for him to get married.  But it turns out, he’s already dating someone…someone handsome that lives in the United States.  Sohail and Rukhsana hatch a plan to feign an engagement and then flee before the wedding where they will part ways and link back up with their partners.  Sohail is also a famous blogger, but he writes about what is wrong with Bangladesh and calls for reform-specifically with the anti-LGBT policies currently in place.  He has thousands of weekly readers but is also being followed by extremists known for violence.  When eating lunch together in a cafe, some thugs sit near the pair to intimidate Sohail.  He quickly wraps up lunch and they finish eating in his office, laughing off the incident.

When the day of the wedding ceremony comes, Rukhsana plans to sneak out of her family’s home into a taxi with her younger brother and go to the airport.  Sohail will do the same and they will catch the flight together.  When Rukhsana arrives, Sohail is late.  She waits as long as she can, but gets on the plane alone and makes the long trek back to America, where some friends pick her up and let her stay at their house.  When Rukhsana finally turns her phone back on, she has many missed calls and voicemails from her parents.  Thinking that they are angry at her for skipping out on the expensive wedding, she ignores them and takes a few days to attempt emotional healing from the extreme trauma and duress that she has just endured over the last few months stuck in Bangladesh.  Her friends sit her down, and tell her she needs to listen to the messages.  Sohail is dead.  On the way to the airport he is murdered viciously with a machete by the thugs, because he is gay.

I won’t spoil the ending, but just know that it will wrench your heart from the very depths inside your soul and be impossible to put down.  I was reading it through tears, enraptured at the emotional complexity of the characters, and the growth of Rukhsana throughout this life-changing endeavor that she found herself inextricably linked to, unable to escape.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sabina-profileSabina Khan is the author of THE LOVE & LIES OF RUKHSANA ALI, a YA Contemporary, was released Spring 2019 from Scholastic. She is an educational consultant and a karaoke enthusiast. After living in Germany, Bangladesh, Macao, Illinois and Texas, she has finally settled down in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband and three daughters, one of whom is a fur baby.

Yo Soy Muslim

Written by: Mark Gonzales

Illustrated by: Mehrdokht Amini

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English & Spanish, mention of speaking Arabic (but none in book).

Topics Covered: Family, Religion,Muslim Identity, Culture & Traditions, Love, Community, Islamophobia, Social-Emotional Learning, Multicultural Families. 

Summary: This is an incredibly beautiful story written from the perspective of a father’s letter to his daughter about being part of a multicultural family.  Much of the book is about how to joyfully approach the world and the questions that both you have for the world and that others in the world have for you.  This book doesn’t get into great detail about Islamic faith or particularities of the religion, mostly speaking of appreciation of the world around us.  The central message is appreciation for one’s culture and the natural world around us, as well as learn how to respond with love when faced with Islamophobia.  This unique perspective of a Spanish-speaking Muslim family is not one written about often, but much needed!

These illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful.  Amini has preciously illustrated a joyful girl interacting with the world, navigating and asking questions.  Short lines text do not interrupt the flow of the pictures, and instead enhance them.  Rich colors and patterns fill the pages, catching the eyes of readers at any age.  This book briefly touches on how some days people will not be kind and smile at you, prompting discussion with younger readers on how to develop social-emotional skills around engaging with others.

Reflection Questions:

  • Has a loved one of yours ever written you a letter like the father in the book does for his daughter?
  • How do you think the daughter feels when she reads and listens to his words?
  • How can you help friends or family members “learn what it means to be human”?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • This book focuses on teaching how to respond to people when faced with Islamophobia specifically, but can be broadly applied to a variety of situations.  How can we as people learn to approach others with love in the face of unfamiliarity rather than immediate suspicion or fear?
  • Mehrdokht Amine uses high jewel tones in many of her illustrations, with intricate patterns in the backgrounds.  Try using different artistic techniques to create your own unique spin on illustrations like Mini does!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

2112941545_thMark Gonzales is a father, futurist, and one of the most innovative storytellers of our time. His creative portfolio spans twenty countries and includes: 3 TED stages, HBO Def Poetry, Stanford University, and the United Nations. Yo Soy Muslim is his first venture into children’s literature, a journey inspired by his daughter and the stories she’ll grow up reading. Currently, Mark journeys between California and northern Africa with his family, seeding ways to excite the human imagination.  Here is another great article that interviews Mark!

 

mehrdokt aminiMehrdokht Amini has illustrated several books for children including Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor, which won the 2016 Children’s Africana Best Book Award, and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan. She has illustrated books published in Iran, Poland, Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Mehrdokht grew up in Iran and now lives in Surrey, England. Visit her website at MyArt2C.com!

Mommy’s Khimar

Written by: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Illustrated by: Ebony Glenn

For ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Love, Islam, Muslim Identity, POC-Centric Narratives, Culture & Traditions.

Summary: This book is about a little girl and how much she loves her mother’s khimars. She goes into her closet and looks at all of the colorful scarves, finally choosing her favorite yellow one.  When she puts on the yellow khimar, she shines like the sun, becomes a superhero, and a mother bird able to protect her little brother while he naps.  We also meet the narrator’s grandmother, who doesn’t wear a hijab or go to mosque.  The narrator says they all love each other, and are a family nonetheless.  At the mosque, the narrator wears her favorite yellow khimar and is greeted warmly by everyone.  At home in the evening, both the narrator and her mother remove their khimars and get ready for bed.  She falls asleep dreaming of all the things she can be, and how she feels her mother is with her when she’s wearing that yellow scarf that shines like the sun.

This book’s illustrations are adorable.  They excuse happiness and serenity, a family that loves each other and celebrating their religious identity.  There are a lot of preconceived notions about Islam and Muslim identity, and this book addresses the freedom the narrator feels to imagine what she can be while wearing her headscarf.  The book doesn’t look beyond childhood into adulthood, but instead centers love and affection for the khimar and her mother.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is something you love, that makes you feel closer to a family member?
  • Do you have any friends that wear khimars?
  • Why do you think that particular khimar reminds the narrator so strongly of her mother?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn about different religions within your family. What do you think enables you to get along and exist in love like the narrator’s family?  Share as a class, and celebrate the religious diversity among the group.
  • Explore the neighborhood for different religious buildings.  Is something more prevalent in your neighborhood than in others?  Why do you think so?  Is there a high concentration of a specific community where you live?  Are you part of that community, or a different one?
  • Sometimes, people are intolerant of those different from them. Learn how to be brave and stand up for others.  Whether it’s about a game, bullying, or religious difference, we should be supportive of each other and build relationships that celebrate diversity and inclusion rather than homogeneity.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jamilah-thompkins-bigelow-2120035660

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is a passionate educator, anti-racism activist, wife, and mother of two. She is a 2016 MuslimARC Muslim Anti-Racism–AMEL Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her family. Mommy’s Khimar is her first picture book.

 

 

 

Headshot-Ebony-Glenn-round-smallerEbony Glenn is an Atlanta based illustrator who enjoys bringing stories to life with whimsical imagery. A passion for the arts, great storytelling, and advocating diversity in children’s books, she aims to create illustrations that will foster a love of reading in young readers.  She also loves to create joyful and heartwarming crafts to satisfy her endless need to always make new things. When Ebony is not giving in to her creative itch of art-making, you may find her lost in the pages of a good book, learning some new hula-hooping tricks, or going on an adventure with her pups, Louie and Gabby. Ebony is also the proud recipient of the 2018 Wonders of Childhood Focus Fellowship, an award given by AIR Serenbe, a nonprofit artist residency program of the Serenbe Institute in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia.