Posted in Books

Favorite Books of 2019

This list represents some of our favorite Children’s and Young Adult books that we read and were published in 2019. We chose these works based on their thoughtful and nuanced treatment of Muslims and Islam.

Picture Books

Image of Picture Book - My Grandma and Me

Javaherbin, Mina. My Grandma and Me. Illustrated by Lindsey Yankey. 32 pp. Candlewick. March 2019. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 9780763694944 

The narrator recalls her childhood growing up in Iran with her beloved grandmother, who lives with the family. Original Review published in November/December 2019 issue of Horn Book.

Image of picture book, Under My Hijab, by Hena Khan

Khan, Hena. Under My Hijab. Illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel. 32 p. Lee & Low Books. January 2019. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781620147924.

A young girl looks at different women in her family and community and who they are in their public and professional lives while wearing hijab and private moments when they do not. Aaliya Jaleel’s illustrations depict empowered women and girls of various ages, body shapes, and skin tones, going through their day and also relaxing in situations in which they don’t cover. A much-needed book that demystifies the lives of hijab-wearers and shows that hijab doesn’t preclude women from actively participating in public life and living their lives to the fullest extent.

The Gift of Ramadan picture book imageLumbard, Rabiah York. The Gift of Ramadan. Illustrated by Laura K. Horton. 32 p. Albert Whitman & Company. April 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807529065.

Sophia is excited to try fasting for Ramadan, wanting to achieve the “sparkly” heart of a fasting person, but learns that it is harder than she expected. Lumbard captures the joy and essence of Ramadan, the holiest time of the year for Muslims, and what it looks like in many Muslim households. The love and tenderness between Sophia and her grandmother are palpable and her grandmother provides important lessons in growth-mindset for children. Sophia learns that Ramadan incorporates much more than fasting, including other acts of worship such as reading the Quran, charity, kindness, and caring for others. A beautifully illustrated, wonderful intergenerational read. 

Muhammad, Ibtihaj. (With S.K. Ali.)The Proudest Blue. Illustrated by Hatem Aly. 40 p. Little, Brown. September 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9780316519007

Image of the picture book, "The Proudest Blue"The first day that a young woman wears a hijab requires a scarf befitting the momentous occasion. Fortunately, Asiya finds just the perfect scarf that’s the “brightest blue” and “color of the ocean” while on a shopping trip with her mother and younger sister, Faizah, who serves as the narrator of this inspiring story. Throughout Asiya’s first day of wearing a hijab, Faizah admires her beauty, confidence, and resilience in the face of questions and taunts from classmates, and imagines a day when she too will be a “princess in hijab.” The all-too-common experience of Islamophobia in the schoolyard setting is addressed with courage and strength. The combination of Muhammad and Ali’s prose with Hatem Aly’s brightly colored illustrations, makes The Proudest Blue a beautifully executed celebration of the everyday experiences of Muslim families and a delightfully authentic representation of a part of the Black American Muslim experience.

Sullivan, Rosana. Mommy Sayang. 48 p. Disney Press. April 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781368015905. Image of the picture book, "Mommy Sayang"

Aleeya and her “Mommy Sayang” (dear mommy), enjoy their daily lives in their Malaysian kampung (village), doing daily chores, watering plants, and spending time with friends and family. Aleeya is always by mommy’s side whether it is staying by her during her five daily prayers or in her dreams while eating curry puffs. But when Aleeya’s mommy gets sick she spends time alone and tries to come up with a way to make her mommy feel better. Doing some minor research into this book led to other sketches depicting a separation between mother and child, with imagery that suggests a longer period of being alone, rather than a temporary stay, which made the fact that this is a semi-autobiographical picture book, a debut from Pixar artist Sullivan, a bit more heartbreaking. As it is, this is a beautiful book to share with a child that might be experiencing separation from a parent due to illness. Few picture books depict the Malay Muslim experience, this is a welcome addition to the cannon.

Early Readers 

Image of Early Reader, "Yasmin the Superhero".Faruqi, Saadia. Yasmin Series. Illustrated by Hatem Aly. 96p. Capstone. 2018-2019 Pb. $7.95. ISBN 9781684360222 (Meet Yasmin!) 

Yasmin, a second-grade Pakistani American, is curious and creative. She loves to solve problems. From creating a map of her neighborhood in “Yasmin the Explorer” to using her mother’s hijabs, saris, and a new kameez to put on a fashion show in “Yasmin the Fashionista,” Yasmin has many adventures. She doesn’t always have the answer or knows exactly what to do, but takes time to think, discover and create. Aly uses bold, bright colors to portray Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American Muslim family. 

Nuurali, Siman. Sadiq and the Green Thumbs. Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar. 64 p. Capstone. August 2019. Tr $6.95. ISBN 9781515845676.

Cover image of Sadiq and the Green Thumbs early readerSadiq and the Green Thumbs is part of an early reader series about a 9-year-old Somali American Muslim boy who lives with his family in Minnesota. In this volume, the arrival of summer signifies the end of the school year, but not for Sadiq and his Muslim friends who will be attending Quran school four days a week. Sadiq is not a fan of his teacher, Mr. Kassim, because he is strict and never seems to smile. So when Mr. Kassim asks for help, Sadiq turns away. Through the example of his mother, father, and brother, Sadiq learns an important lesson about helping others. One of the few works which feature a Black Muslim family.

Middle Grade

Cover image of More to the Story by Hena KhanKhan, Hena. More to the Story. 272 p. Simon and Schuster/Salaam Reads. September 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781481492096.

In a novel inspired by Little Women, thirteen-year-old Pakistani American Jameela Mirza, the second oldest of four sisters and an aspiring journalist, lives with her family in Atlanta. Original Review published in September/October 2019 issue of Horn Book.

Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home. 352 p. HarperCollins Children’s. May 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9780062747808.Cover image of Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga.

Life in a tourist town on the Syrian coast has been good to Jude and her family; watching videos of American movies, singing, and hanging out with her best friend at her father’s store are some of her favorite pastimes. As the Syrian civil war intensifies throughout the country, however, change is in the air, and the future in their hometown seems uncertain. The decision is made that Jude and her mother must leave Syria, and her father and brother behind, to live with extended family in Ohio. In the United States, Jude learns what it means to be brave and to call a place home. In breathtaking prose, this novel-in-verse brilliantly explores myriad topics, including the complexity of the Syrian conflict, immigration, and what it means to Muslim and Middle Eastern in contemporary America.

Young Adult

Cover Image of Internment by Samira Ahmed.*Ahmed, Samira. Internment. 400p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316522694.

“Exclusion laws” imposed by an Islamophobic president have upended the lives of Muslims across the United States, including Layla’s. Removed from school for her own good by her parents, Layla circumvents state-imposed curfews to see her boyfriend, David, who is Jewish. When she and her family and other Muslims are rounded up by the authorities and forced to live in an internment camp in the California desert, Layla learns what it means to survive—and to fight. This cautionary tale for our times draws parallels between the situation Muslim Americans face today and the horrors of the Japanese American internment.

*Ali, S.K. Love From A to Z. 352 p. Simon and Schuster Bks./Salaam Reads. May 2019. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 9781534442726.Cover Image of Love from A to Z
Two Muslim students, Zayneb and Adam, meet during their spring break in Doha, Qatar. Zayneb, a high school, lives in Indiana and has an Islamophobic teacher. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Adam, a college student in London, stopped attending his classes. Both write their thoughts and experiences in journals divided into sections on Marvels and Oddities. This is a poignant love story between two practicing Muslims who stay true to themselves and to their beliefs.

Cover image of The Weight of Our Sky*Alkaf, Hanna. The Weight of Our Sky. 288p. Salaam Reads. February 2019. Tr. $18.99. ISBN 9781534426085.

Set during the Malaysian race riots of 1969, sixteen-year-old Melati struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, believing that she is being tormented by a djinn whose threats against her mother can only be appeased with counting rituals. When actual violence arises between ethnic Malays, Chinese, and Indians in Kuala Lumpur, Melati feels that her fears will manifest. A powerful and raw exploration of mental illness in relation to religious beliefs, Malaysian history, and rising above prejudice and hate.

*Azad, Nafiza. The Candle and the Flame. 416p. Scholastic. May 2019. Tr $18.99. 9781338306040.Cover Image of the Candle and the Flame

Fatima is human but carries the fire of the djinn within her. She lives in Noor, a vibrant, multicultural city along the Silk Road that has risen from the ashes of destruction by the Shayateen but faces threats to its existence. Azad seamlessly blends Islamic concepts and Middle Eastern mythology with a cornucopia of other traditions to create a magical musing on identity, community, friendship, love, and loss.

Cover image of "All American Muslim Girl".Courtney, Nadine Jolie. All-American Muslim Girl. 432p. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. November 2019. $17.99 ISBN 9780374309527.

Circassian American Alia, known as Allie, passes as white and doesn’t face the same Islamophobia her father does, to her shame and his relief. But despite fitting in well at her new school, where she has developed mutual feelings for Wells Henderson, the perfect “all-American” boy, Allie longs to connect to her heritage and her religion. As she explores more about Islam, however, the reactions from those closest to her leave her wondering if she will ever truly fit in or belong. The complexity of identity is fully developed in this narrative and builds space for Muslims to explore intersectional identity. Courtney examines ideas about Islam, Muslim women, Islamic feminism, sexuality, apologetics, foibles, and complexity of character with finesse. Characters and discussion in the book speak to outsider critiques of Islam, but also insider critiques, calls for reform and oversimplification. Muslim women throughout the book, including Allie’s relatives, her friends, herself, and her mother who converted to Islam, have agency and counter stereotypes of Muslim women as naive and dependent on men. 

Khan, Sabina. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali. 326p. Scholastic. January 2019. $17.99 ISBN 9781338227017. Cover image for "The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali"

When Bangladeshi-American teen Rukhsana is caught kissing her white girlfriend, Ariana, her parents are livid. Under the pretext of visiting her sick grandmother, Rukhsana travels with her parents to Dhaka only to find that they plan to get her engaged. In her efforts to escape and take control of her life, she finds support in others, including in her grandmother, who reveals her own traumatic history, and in an observant Muslim cousin, among others. When tragedy strikes, Rukhsana must decide what she can bear to hold onto, while Ariana and her other white female friends must learn to understand Rukhsana’s upbringing and culture, and how both are inextricably tied to who she is. Khan’s descriptions of Dhaka and elements of Bangladeshi culture and family are beautiful and examine the hard truth of how queer people of color and Muslims can be cut off from when coming out. Khan avoids depicting Islam as the sole driving force behind her parents’ actions, instead considering how culture, religion, tradition, gender roles, and community expectations and judgment play into acceptance, oppression, and violence.  

Graphic Novels

Cover Image of Satoko and NadaYupechika and Marie Nishimori. Satoko and Nada. 128 p. Seven Seas. June 2019. $12.99. ISBN 9781626929852.

Originally published by Kodansha in 2017, with two volumes of the manga translated in the United States, Satoko and Nada is the story of two roommates, a Japanese national, Satoko, and a Saudi Arabian national, Nada, who live together and study in the United States. Episodic, and written for a Japanese audience, stories create an opportunity for Satoko, who knows little about Islam, to learn from Nada about both religion and culture while reflecting on her own Japanese culture. Some of Nada’s explanations of Islam and culture are framed by her Saudi Arabian identity and are generalized at times. Overall, however, the work is warm-hearted and a gentle experience of cross-cultural learning. Yupechika is the primary author and illustrator, while Marie Nishimori is cited as a supervisor. Nishimori’s credits list her as being a journalist, who majored in comparative psychology at Cairo University in Egypt, and a Muslim. Yupechika includes in the second volume, her trip to Saudi Arabia, her interactions with students in her drawing/manga classes, and her reflections of the trip.

Non-Fiction

Mir, Saira. Illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel. Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time. 48. Simon and Schuster/Salaam Reads. October 2019. $17.99. ISBN 9781534418882.Cover image of Muslim Girls Rise

Nineteen illustrated biographical profiles of Muslim women of different nationalities and national origins in various fields from science, education, fashion, sports, entertainment, politics, and activism. There is a strong sense of continuity, asserting that Muslim women have always been extraordinary, empowered and have a place and right amongst other women throughout history who persevere, contribute, and change the world for the better. Though the women included are of various national origin, most are American.

Cover Image of I Am the Night SkyNext Wave Muslim Initiative Writers. I Am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth. 192pp. Shout Mouse. May 2019. $14.99 ISBN 9781945434938.

An anthology of short stories, poems, and collages by ten Muslim American teens in the greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area highlights everyday realities and expressions of identity and faith. Writers take pride in asserting multiple identities and questioning assumptions about race, gender, colorism, assimilation, immigration, and positivity around religion.

Yousafzai, Malala. We Are Displaced. 212 p. Little, Brown and Company. January 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316523646.

Malala’s story is now known across the world. However, this work shines a light on other girls and women who have known the trials of war.Malala journeys across the world meeting others, including other Muslims, who have become displaced due to violence. The stories accounted for are spoken from a place of anguish for what was lost but can be at times filled with hope for what has become. 

*Annotations for titles with an asterisk first appeared in the School Library Journal article, “Muslims in YA”

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