by Hena Khan
Intermediate, Middle School Salaam/Simon 197 pp.
3/17 978-1-4814-9206-5 $16.99 g
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-9208-9 $10.99
Musically talented Amina struggles with shyness and, since she started middle school, with issues of assimilation. Her best friend Soojin, who is Korean American, is considering changing her name with the encouragement of new friend Emily, which leaves Amina feeling self-conscious about her own Muslim Pakistani American identity. Meanwhile, her conservative, traditional uncle, Thaya Jaan, visiting from Pakistan, objects on religious grounds to her singing and piano playing just as she’s trying to get up the courage to perform in a school concert. After the local Islamic Center, including the mosque, is vandalized, the text vacillates between believably depicting the shaken-up congregants and spelling out a few too many ideas that readers might otherwise figure out on their own. This first title from new Muslim-focused imprint Salaam Reads is more successful in its depiction of day-to-day interactions, its shifting middle-school personalities and friendships, and its cozily busy community scenes. The result is a relatable portrayal of a tween who wants to fit in, and who’s devoted to her faith even amid her confusion about her family’s varied approaches to it.
From the March/April 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.