Amina's Voice Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-07-05 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" 3.5 starsThis is a great middle grade read with a diverse array of characters that I think every child should read. Valuable Themes in Amina's Voice:- amicable relationships in spite of different beliefs- preserving friendships in spite of changes- what to do when you make a mistake... and you're 11 or 19 0r 50 or 264 America doesn't have the best role model right now, but I think a plethora of people, of any age, can learn from 11 year old Amina Khokor. " said.

" I like the premise and tone of this book quite a lot but as a Milwaukee resident, it feels like it was written by someone with a map of Milwaukee and maybe a little Googling. I kept getting thrown out of the book by that. " said.

" I thought I'd love this, but in the end it I liked it just fine. A sweet story about a middle school girl navigating the usual friendship complications. While it lacks some verve in its plot, the book's strength is in its vibrant depiction of Amina's Pakistani-American family and her broader Muslim community. Also, I found myself a little teary-eyed by the end - so there's that. " said.

"I love this. What a sweet story and one that I need every single person, young and old, to read. Amina is Pakistani-American and in addition to starting middle school and being a little shy, Amina's Voice also deals a lot with her Muslim faith in a way that any reader will gain a better understanding and empathy about that religion and culture. It also tells a beautiful story about coming together and overcoming senseless hate, and learning to forgive. I think mid/upper elementary readers and middle schoolers will find a lot to relate to with Amina. And that cover! *emoji with heart eyes*" said.

"Originally posted here at Random Musings of a Bibliophile.

I have been looking forward to Amina's Voice by Hena Khan since first hearing about it. It is the first novel from Salaam Reads, a new imprint of Simon & Schuster and I was eager to see what it would be like. It is excellent in every way possible and a much needed book for multiple reasons.

Amina is is a Pakistani American girl living in Wisconsin trying to survive middle school. She loves singing, but is afraid of the spotlight. Her best friend is acting different and seems interested in befriending one of the "cool girls" who used to actively make fun of them. Things at home can be stressful too as her brother, now in high school, is starting to have more conflicts with their parents. Then her family gets a visit from their father's older brother from Pakistan who is more conservative and strict in his religious views. Amina is more confused than ever. When their local mosque is vandalized, Amina needs to find her voice and her courage as she watches the people she loves most grieve and come together.

Amina is a wonderful main character and a her narration allows the reader to know her fully. She is a shy, introverted girl and very much a people pleaser. This causes her to internalize a lot of her struggles and jumble her thoughts. She is incredibly relatable even if this is not your personality type. She is a talented singer and wants to sing a solo for her school, but is too afraid. She is a little disgusted with herself because of that fear, but doesn't know how to overcome it. This is a story of Amina's journey to more self confidence and finding her voice when she needs it.

This is also a really good book about friendship. Amina's best friend, a Korean American girl, is becoming a citizen and thinking of changing her name to something more "American". At the same time she wants to spend more time with Emily, who used to be super popular and taunted the girls about their "strange" food and customs on multiple occasions. Amina is not quite ready to be so forgiving and there is some conflict between the three. I really enjoyed Khan's approach to this situation. Friendship troubles in a three friend group with one best friend pair having different notions of how to go on in middle school is a common theme in MG. I really like the way it worked out here. All three of the girls learn more about themselves and each other and their friendship grows and changes as a result. There is drama caused by typical middle school thinking and actions, but I feel the resolution is also genuine and shows how friendships are able to evolve and worth working for.

Amina's family life is an important part of her story as well. Her parents are immigrants and have very firm ideas about how they want their children to go through life in America. Amina's older brother is pushing the limits set on him and it is creating tension in the family. Again, I really like the way this was handled. Amina's parents are fabulous and it is clear in every scene they are in that they love both their children very much. They have talks with them. They have firm rules, but they also try to explain things. The family's Muslim faith plays a central part in everything they do and this was wonderful to see. Religion plays a huge part in the lives of so many MG readers and yet we don't really see it play as much of a part in the books they read. In this case, it showcases a religion (the author's own) that many people don't know a lot about and misunderstand so its inclusion here is perfect for both those reasons. In addition to the religious themes, the family's interactions also bring out aspects of what it is like to be an immigrant family and the conflicts that can arise from that.

In many contemporary MG fiction books, the main character deals with issues at school and at home, with friends and with family. Amina's Voice stands out in how well Khan weaves all these threads together. They are intricate parts of who Amina is. This is her story and all of these flow out of that.

The mosque being vandalized is an important part of the book and a catalyst for Amina in many ways, but it is not the main point. It is wonderful to see the community rally together in the wake of it though and to be there with Amina as she processes her fear and grief.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys realistic fiction. You can never get enough books that deal with friends, school and family for MG readers, and this is one of the more excellent ones I've read in some time. I'm looking forward to reading more of Khan's future novels. (I know from a panel at ALA she is working on a chapter book series about a Muslim boy who plays basketball.)

I read an ARC given to me by the publisher, Salaam Reads, at ALA Midwinter. Amina's Voice goes on sale March 14th.
" said.

"First published at The Shrinkette.

I haven’t read a lot of middle-grade fiction since well before middle grade ( I was the annoying kid that thought it was only cool to read ‘above’ her reading level and no adult told me otherwise), and it’s such a delight to pick them up and read them as an adult. Hena Khan has woven such a vibrant story with these babies at the heart of it, filled with warmth and leaving you with hope.

The first thing that struck me while reading this was how early in their lives non-white kids in the US and other white-majority countries begin to experience microaggressions and racial stigma. Their environment is made up of people that view them as “other”, including the white kids in their schools. Soojin’s story arc of wanting to change her name to one that would be easier for white Americans to pronounce particularly stayed with me. I didn’t even have to grow up in that kind of environment and three years of people in the States mispronouncing my name drove me batty, but to be a small kid whose environment moulds her into thinking the solution to the conundrum is assimilation (because of systemic white supremacy) is both rage-inducing and heart-breaking. I know a lot of people (in India) who make fun of desis in the States for shortening or changing their names, but they never ever take into consideration the extent of this name-fuckery that POC experience which lead to that decision.

There are a lot of relationships fleshed out and explored in the story- particularly the family ties. There is a familiar ring to the conversations among members of Amina’s family. I loved that Amina and her brother are very supportive of each other. Amina is still at the cusp of adolescence and by nature quieter, but her brother is thrust into the chaos of self-discovery with basketball and peers on the one side and his parents and their expectations n0t to abandon his culture on the other side. This was extremely relatable, especially in the context of Asian families, and I don’t think that dissonance between these cultural values and what my parents called “modern thinking” ever goes away. At the same time, the parents are not portrayed unfairly- they’re loving, caring, and a little strict, but have their kids’ best interests at heart. The arrival of Amina’s uncle throws some complications in their first-gen family, and their khaatirdhari (hospitality) is so familiar. Guests are considered an equivalent to god, so even with family members hosts will go out of their way to make sure their guests are respected and always comfortable.

Another thing that I was really glad to see was that Amina and her brother do not abhor or reject their culture. Often times second/third gen Asians are portrayed as rejecting, mocking or hating their cultures (said cultures are also portrayed as old-fashioned, whacky, or straight up weird), and this portrayal either seems like pandering to white people or just written from this white gaze. While Amina is probably a little too young and the typical rebellion we see against religion and culture is seen with older kids, it feels good to read about South Asians without the “backward” shadow. Culture and religion are complicated, and they’re a part and parcel of the Asian culture, so in reality it is almost impossible to disassociate from that without a thought. When crisis strikes with the mosque being vandalized, it is hard not experience horror at the event, especially with the story being built around Amina’s family and the extent to which their lives are tied to that community. However, it was encouraging to watch the community come together in the face of blatant Islamophobia, with the help of supportive allies, not to let the violent act tear them and whatever they’ve built down, leaving readers with hope at the end of it all.

The theme of identity and self-discovery are maintained throughout the book, and explored with the storylines of multiple characters. None of the characters were one-dimensional, and even with the multiple storylines, were written wholly human. This is a very empowering story, and exposing kids to stories like this one is very crucial if we’re to fortify them with the tools to be aware of diversity in experiences, backgrounds, and cultures and dismantle systemic bigotry.
" said.

"Amina Khokar, a Pakistani American Muslim girl living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has just started sixth grade in middle school and already she is wishing she were back in elementary school. Everything feels different. To begin with, her best friend, Korean-born Soojin Park is about to become a citizen and is thinking about changing her Korean name for something more American. And no sooner has school begun, but Soojin begins to hang out with Emily. Emily had been friends with Julie, and the two of them used to make fun of Soojin and Amina in elementary school. While Soojin seems to accept Emily, Amina is have a lot of difficulty with her hanging around with them. It doesn't take long for a misunderstanding between Soojin and Amina to make them stop speaking.

To add to Amina's stress, she is told that her great uncle is coming for a three month visit from Pakistan, and Thaya Jaan is a very strict Muslim. What will he think of their American ways, and the music Amina loves to play on the piano? It doesn't take long to find out when Amina overhears a conversation between her father and uncle, who tells him that music is forbidden on Islam, and she should be focusing on memorizing Quran.

Meanwhile, older brother Mustafa has been acting up, his grades went way down in middle school and all he seems interested in is texting his friends or watching TV.Now in high school, Mustafa wants to try out for the basketball team, much to his parents chagrin. Mama and Baba have definite ideas about what their children's accomplishments should be and basketball isn't one of them.

But the Quran recitation competition to be held at their Islamic Center is exactly what Mama and Baba have in mind for Amina and Mustafa, and should please Thaya Jaan, who is quite knowledgeable of the Quran and willing to help his niece and nephew practice their Urdu pronunciation.

There's only one problem - Amina can speak in public, she simply freezes up. Which is a shame, considering that she plays the piano so well, has perfect pitch, a beautiful singing voice and more than anything wants to perform in public.

Amina already has a lot on her plate but when vandals destroys her beloved Islamic Center, she learns to true meaning of family, friendship, and community. When the Park's Presbyterian church offers to hold the Quran competition and the Islamic Center's annual carnival, will Amina be able to find her voice and recite the surah (chapter) she had chosen from the Quran for the competition?

Amina's Voice is one of the first novels to come out of the new Simon & Schuster imprint Salaam Reads. I found it to be timely, interesting and a charming coming of age story. Khan has seamlessly incorporated aspects of Amina's life as a young Pakistani American Muslim girl living in a mostly white community. Her family is loving, supportive, and warm, though her brother a little rebellious, after all, he is a teen. Even the strict uncle is not an unmovable, judgmental force that one meets so often in novels where religion plays a major part in everyday life. He is actually quite warm and loving as well. All this makes the novel a very believable and very relatable story that readers who are not Muslim can also relate to, especially those who go to Sunday School in church where there were lots of family activities to bring people together (I still love a good potluck supper).

Khan has given Amina a really genuine voice, always reflective of her age, her circumstances, and her emotions. She is, however, a nicely flawed middle grader. Her problems don't just revolve around her religion, but also her friends and especially her difficulty in accepting Emily, and her jealousy when she sees Soojin and Emily growing closer and dealing with her feelings of being left out.

I can't recommend Amina's Voice highly enough and I can't wait to see what the future holds for the Salaam Reads imprint.

Amina's Voice will be available on March 14, 2017

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from NetGalley

This review was originally posted at Randomly Reading
" said.

" I read a sample of this one courtesy of Simon Teen Canada. I really enjoyed this one. I liked seeing how different cultures live their day to day lives and I am really hoping that Amina is able to use her voice. I am excited to get the full version of this one upon release. " said.

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