BOOK REVIEWS

Amina's Voice Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-04-14 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings
ISBN:1481492063
LANGUAGE:English

" This is a fantastic diverse book for middle grades. Khan included Arabic and Urdu languages as well as Muslim practices in order to "normalize" it in a text that teens and tweens can read and see it as something that's real, that's in our country, and that is not scary. Readers can learn a lot about Pakistan culture, the languages spoken there, and the religious practices of the people. Diversity is a gift, and this book is one that really shows it! " said.

"Amina is a Pakistani-American who has just started middle school with her best friend, a Korean-American, Soojin. Soojin is applying for American citizenship and has decided to change her name to sound more American. Soojin’s sudden refutation of identity causes a rift between the friends, which is further widened as Emily, a student who used to make fun of their cultural differences, tries to befriend the girls. As if Amina does not face enough stress and new feelings of jealously already, her strong-willed uncle from Pakistan decides to visit, her teacher pressures her to sing in the school concert—Amina never sings in public—and her Sunday school teacher and parents force her to enter a Quran competition for the local Islamic Center. Just as things cannot get any worse, Amina accidentally shares Emily’s secret crush, causing a trivial fight with her friends, and the local Islamic Center and mosque is vandalized. Similar to the hate crime in It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, Amina’s community, family, and friends are forced to reconcile their differences and pull together to physically and emotionally rebuild their home.

A middle grade read for fourth to seventh graders, Amina’s Voice addresses modern day issues about what it is like to grow up Muslim in America. Amina faces criticism from all sides, including her Pakistani relatives. As she continuously fights cultural barriers, she learns that she must also be more accepting and brave. Amina has her own flaws, which she must overcome. Similar to It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, Amina’s Voice pulls readers into the story. How can you not cheer them along and want to embrace this supportive and tolerant community? The well-rounded characters face major personal growth, and although the plot slows for just a moment, collections can benefit from this multicultural read. I hope to see this new Muslim imprint publish many more timely, intuitive, and relatable novels for school-aged children and tweens.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Salaam Reads for providing me with a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
" said.

"A charming and encouraging little story of diversity and growing up, and as timely as can be. I got this when I saw the announcement because of a friend from Pakistan and my long interest in Korea; the two main characters are from those backgrounds. Middle school was an awful time for me, like many, and I was also curious to see how it would be handled here (I read a lot of YA fiction, but not so much middle-grade). With the exception of one big incident that helps bring resolution towards the end, most of the story is the kinds of small slights and details that make up so much of life, especially at that age -- but Khan handles it all very deftly, without getting overly angsty. There's really nice small development for most of the characters, and it feels organic and appropriate. I like the small touches that convey the feel of Pakistani (-American) and Korean (-American) home-life, the foods and terms of address and attitudes, but the things that are more general to young teens are equally well handled. This probably would appeal more to girls than boys, but this mid-50s male quite enjoyed it and frankly I think more boys should read girl-centered books. I gave it four rather than five stars mainly because I'm not sure it's one I'll want to go back and read again, and possibly reflecting my usual reading of books written for a slightly older age, but definitely on that 4/5 cusp and at another time I might bump it up." said.

"Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is released in March 14, 2017. It is a compassionate tale of a Muslim girl trying to find her voice as a person as she learns about good and bad. Her struggles transcend culture, race, and religion. Kids will want to stay with her so much longer. She will probably linger in your mind because she grows on you as you read more.

This is a sweet story of a girl who you will easily identify with despite embracing different beliefs and belonging to another culture. The family’s dynamics are well done and will make you laugh and want to cry. The author has a unique way of looking at the world and will enchant you by her comparisons.

I recommend starting with chapter 2 because that’s where Khan’s magical talent really starts to shine. I really love Amina’s best friend, Soojin, a Korean immigrant. Amina identifies with her in unique ways. They both leave their shoes at the entrance of their house. They both like to sing. They both connect despite their obvious differences. And the parents a hilarious.

The only thing that bothered me is how painfully traditional this Pakistanis family is. I am sure Pakistanis kids will recognize themselves here. The themes too are recurrent ones. A girl trying to fit in a different culture, parents who are liberal, but welcome a very traditional Muslim in their homes, Bollywood, the betrayal of a friend, the father being a Pakistanis doctor.

However, because the novel was written by a Muslim, it has a unique angle to it. Amina’s uncle reconnects her to the music of the Quran, her holy book, despite being a strict Muslim. He even recognizes that the US is good for them before he returns to Pakistan. That was unexpected. The way the mom handles the diverse interpretations of the Qur’an is moving too. We have the feeling that this community can live with all their differences.

Many novels dealing with Islam and written by non-Muslims show teens rebelling against what they’re told and being a total wreck. It’s like they do not understand that Muslims can be loving and respectful. Amina, the main character, is unique in this way. She doesn’t go around throwing away her hijab and badmouthing her uncle. She listens and learns like most teens.

I could truly connect with her as a person and someone well-integrated in her community and well-adjusted to the world. The story is a huge step away from the traditional literature that shows Muslims as resilient to change, intolerant of other cultures, and judgmental. Amina is none of that. She is the regular Muslim you will meet at school, in the street, or in the mosque.
The way Amina cries when her brother is accused of smoking. The way she reacts when her uncle announces that making music is not Islamic and talking about other behind their backs is haram (forbidden). She doesn’t react violently, but listens and questions. She is ready to learn and she is tolerant. That made her so much more believable or so much relatable and authentic.

Loved that book!

https://www.henakhan.com/
" said.

"I sometimes forget that Middle-Grade novels are written with a different pace in mind, usually. I had pre-ordered Amina's voice months ago but had forgotten that it was Middle-Grade. It isn't exactly hard to figure out the minute you start reading. First of all, Amina is in sixth grade. But I wasn't thinking that I was going into a Middle-Grade novel, so when I was surprised when started reading at how fast it went. I finished it in something like two hours.

Amina is a twelve-year-old Pakistani-American girl. She loves to sing but is too shy to do it in public, has a best friend, and struggles with what growing up and being a middle schooler mean to her. In many ways, she an Everygirl. It was refreshing as she is, of course, Muslim. I can think of a few other books with Muslim characters, but an overtly religious Muslim girl who has been written by a Muslim woman is still something out of the norm. Amina is an intensely realistic character who defies stereotype just by being ordinary. She was written by someone who innately understands her, and that is an important point.

The power of Amina's character is that she is ordinary. Sometimes she gets jealous that her best friend is making friends with someone else. Sometimes she is accidentally mean. Sometimes she wants to play video games instead of doing her homework. She is put out when her parents tell her that her uncle is going to come to visit for three months. Amina's ordinariness is also her greatest weakness as a character. Sometimes her Everygirl-ness (making that a word) can read as boring. If she is just like every other girl why am I reading about her?

This book also makes me realize that, as a reader, I am predisposed to be suspicious of overly and traditionally religious characters. I have been thinking about this since I finished the book and I believe that it spans all religions including made up religions in fantasy novels. For some reason, I have no issues with nebulous religiousness. Mentioning God? Fine. Praying. Fine. Wearing a Hijab? You are cool with me. But if a character starts talking about what God wants I am immediately suspicious. I don't think that I do this with real people. I certainly hope I don't. Anyhow, in books, this is usually an early clue that the character will be up to no good. Amina's whole immediate family and her religious community raised no red flags, but I spent a lot of time side-eying her uncle. Now that I know that this is something that I do I am going to have to snap myself out of it because that shit is not cute.

Amina's Voice isn't a complicated story. I would be comfortable giving this book to elementary school students who have the necessary decoding skills. But the underlying theme of both finding your voice (in many senses of the phrase) and figuring our how to fit the fragmented part of yourself together is one that will resonate. As you can see in this review, even as an adult reader my internal biases were challenged. Reading should change you, and this book reminded me that sometimes when it works, it changes you for the better. I will be recommending this to students.
" said.

" Amina’s Voice is a charming middle-grade book by Hena Khan which introduces readers to Amina Khokar, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl. Amina and her best friend Soojin have just started sixth grade, and it’s a very stressful time for them: Soojin’s family is preparing for their American citizenship ceremony, there’s a big chorus concert coming up and their teacher is looking for soloists, and classmates who used to tease Amina and Soojin mercilessly have suddenly switched to seeking out their company. Amina has stress at home, too: her older brother Mustafa has been acting out, her uncle is coming for a long visit from Pakistan, and her mosque is hosting a Quran recitation which all students are expected to participate in. That’s a lot for one girl to handle!

Younger readers, especially shy ones, will find much of themselves in Amina and her difficulties in adjusting to life’s changes. I remember feeling suspicious of people who hadn’t been kind to me in elementary school, but sought me out once we got into junior high, and the hours I spent wondering if it was all some elaborate prank being played on me. I also know what it’s like to be painfully shy in front of strangers, especially large groups of people. Amina has a tremendous talent for music, and can sing beautifully as well as play the piano, but finds herself unable to express a single note when faced with a crowd. Part of her journey through the novel is a discovery of self-confidence, but she also has to face some painful truths about her capacity for jealousy, especially since a classmate named Emily seems determined to insert herself into Amina’s bond with Soojin. And when her beloved mosque is the target of vandalism, an experience which is described in heartbreaking detail, the resolution literally brought tears to my eyes.

Khan writes beautifully, describing Amina’s struggles at school and happiness at home in terms that will resonate with any reader, whether or not they’ve experienced Amina’s exact challenges. For readers who don’t know what it’s like to be the children of immigrants, Khan’s novel will provide a wealth of insight and appreciation. And for readers who know what it’s like to wrestle with pronunciation of difficult words or cultural expectations, I suspect that Amina’s journey will be that much more significant. I’d love for a copy of Amina’s Voice to be available in every middle school and junior high school library, if for no other reason than to encourage children to be more like Amina: kind, generous, intelligent, creative, and humble.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, which did not affect my review in any way. Review cross-posted at Amazon.
" said.

"Amina could be every girl, shy, not confident enough to "show off" her great voice in a school program, jealous when her best friend welcomes another girl into their group, anxious to be a good daughter and sister. She just happens to be Muslim. There is a sense of old ways vs. new when an important uncle comes to visit and her parents "worry" about how he will evaluate the family and later in the book the mosque is vandalized. But the emphasis is on how the community comes together for support and the annual carnival still takes place (which the imam joining the dunking contest). One of the early books in Simon and Schuster's new imprint Salaam Reads. A great success. " said.

"Amina is just headed into middle school. She's never been comfortable in the spotlight and at first turns down a chance to perform a solo in in upcoming chorus despite her good voice and love of singing... but really enjoys just hanging out with her best friend Soojin. But now Soojin wants to hang out with Emily too (a girl who tormented them in previous years for their different backgrounds; Amina is Pakistani American and Soojin is Korean and soon to be American). When vandals target her community's mosque Amina is devastated. She must juggle her worry over her changing relationship with her best friend, her fear about fitting in, her concern over the shock in her community, and just growing up in general. This is a real and touching nearly memoir-feeling short novel about a girl who is just trying to do her best in Middle School, navigating the usual school dramas along with the additional concerns of Muslim sentiment in the United States. While there are a few dark moments this is overall a really positive book about community and friendship and family. There is a good bit of diversity too as the likeable main character, Amina, is Pakistani American and her best friend Soojin is Korean. The way the author weaves in Arabic phrases and explains (without any sense of Teacher Mode) brief bits of Muslim religion are very well done and interesting as well.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The book wraps up quickly at the end and could have benefited from another chapter or two to prevent it feeling rushed.

To whom would you recommend this book? (Read-alikes if you can think of them) Anyone who is interested in Malala's story will find Amina's story to be simpler in prose but very enjoyable. Also recommend to anyone looking for a good "just going into Middle School" story.

FTC Disclosure: The Publisher provided me with a copy of this book to provide an honest review. No goody bags, sponsorship, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
" said.

April 2017 New Book:

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