Amina's Voice Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-18 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"Amina’s story combines the theme of typical pre-teen friendship politics with the theme of growing up in a multicultural environment. Amina not only has to navigate the rough waters that come along with growing up, but she must also tackle the conflicts that arise when she tries to harmonize the culture that her parents grew up in with the culture in which she is growing up in.

Issues of religion, religious intolerance, hate crimes, and cultural differences, diversity, and multi-cultural awareness are weaved smoothly into cross-cultural issues of bullying, friendship, and coming-of-age. Amina learns about the world, her environment, her family’s religion and heritage, her friends, and most of all she learns about herself, as she finds her voice in this complex, diverse, often confusing, multi-cultured world.

I received a copy of this book from Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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" 4.5 stars; loved it, hugged it when I finished " 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.

" it was so good but i wouldve enjoyed it 3x more if i were in elementary school! i would definitely recommend to my little cousins! " said.

" A really nice book for older elementary and/or early middle school. A decent kid figuring out middle school, friends, family and religion, Amina happens to be Muslim. A timely book that shows the shared and different experiences across all those areas. Hope to put in hands of fifth graders soon. " said.

" At first glance this middle-school read is not extraordinary. It portrays the typical storyline of best friends whose interests seem to diverge as they enter middle school. What makes it different is the fact that its titular protagonist also has to deal with a visiting Pakistani uncle who adheres to a stricter interpretation of the Quran than her family does.Readers of the dust jacket know that the family's mosque is vandalized, a storyline that is not as well-developed. " said.

" LOVED this! Anyone looking to read diverse children's literature (and really, everyone should be) needs to reads this fantastic book.Amina's relationships with her family, friends, classmates, and teachers are great models for children (and adults)! I loved the storyline, the community-coming-together aspect, and the writing. I would love to read more from this author and will definitely insist that my (future) children read this! " said.

"I loved this book. I have not read many books where the main character is bi-lingual in Arabic and English. Her best friend is becoming a US citizen. If I had a middle grade classroom I would have several copies of this book available. Maybe I just identified with Amina, not her beautiful musical voice, but with her household. She could understand her family native language but answered in English. Her family struggles to find that happy place between their cultural traditions/beliefs and fitting into an American way of life. The food, the religion, the traditions are all different from what I experienced but the the feelings are quite relatable. This book is powerful for any reader but especially for those balancing and honoring two cultures. " said.

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