Friday, July 15, 2016
The Garden of My Imaan
by Farhana Zia
230 pages; ages 9-12
Peachtree publishers, 2016 (paper)
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in. She wants to talk to the cute boy; she wants to stand up to the bully. That she's Muslim is just another part of her life - homework for Sunday school, deciding whether (or not) to fast during Ramadan.
And then a new girl moves into town. Marwa won't eat the chicken nuggets in the cafeteria because they're not halal. She fasts during Ramadan. She wears a hijab. And now Aliya has questions about herself. Like every coming-of-age story, Aliya wonders who she is, what she believes, and how she fits in.
Hijab: should she wear one? Her friends who do say that it's just part of who they are - like a zebra wearing stripes. But Aliya hears stories about name-calling and people ripping hijab off girls at a school and in the mall. Even without a head scarf strangers have yelled things at her: "go back to the desert"; "drive a camel".
What I like about this book: it has a great inter-generational scenes, especially when a grand-aunt visits. She is quite demanding and Aliya must give up her room so Aunt can sleep well. I also like that the story challenges assumptions about Muslims. And that Aliya finds a way to cultivate her growing faith (Imaan) through writing (a diary filled with letters to Allah). I also like the story about the Mango tree... which reminds us that if we want to see fruit we have to do more than toss a seed onto the ground. We have to cultivate the garden.
Review copy provided by publisher.