Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan — Book Recommendation

Title: Amina’s Voice

Author: Hena Khan

Publisher: New York: Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Children’s, 2017

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction

Audience Age: 9 to 12

Themes/Topics: empowerment, racism, feeling comfortable with who you are, lifting up your voice

Opening Sentences: Something sharp pokes me in the rib.

“You should totally sign up for a solo,” Soojin whispers from the seat behind me in music class.

I shake my head. The mere thought of singing in front of a crowd makes my stomach twist into knots.

Synopsis: Amina is a sixth-grade Muslim girl of Pakistani heritage, growing up in Greendale in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. She loves to sing, but is shy about singing by herself in front of others, no matter how many times her best friend, Soojin, urges her to. She doesn’t want to stand out.

Still, she doesn’t want to go to the lengths Soojin is planning in order to fit in. Soojin’s family is about to gain their American citizenship, and Soojin wants an American name. This starts Amina thinking about her heritage, her faith, and where she fits.

Another girl tries to become Soojin’s friend, and Amina wonders if she’s losing her best friend completely.

A visit from her strict uncle gives her more to think about. He puts great value on strict obedience to the rules and priorities of their Muslim faith, more so than Mama or Baba (Mom or Dad). He starts coaching her so she’ll excel in singing a passage from the Koran in an upcoming competition at their mosque. But she just can’t get the pronunciation right – and she doesn’t want to stand up there in front of everyone.

Amina is thoroughly muddled about where she fits, or if she fits at all. When their mosque is vandalized, she has to find out if she has it in her to speak out, to sing out, to make a difference, to show that she does fit.

For Further Enrichment: Find the author’s website here.

Read a review of this book on my friend Pat Tilton’s wonderful blog, Children’s Books Heal.

There’s an excellent article in The Washington Post about Amina’s Voice and about diversity in children’s books.

There is a reading guide at Simon and Schuster’s website and one at the TeacherVision website.

Find even more at the TeachingBooks website.

Availability: Should be readily available. Check your local independent bookstore, or find one online.

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