Posted in Books, Reviews

Review: Orientation (Avengers Assembly, Volume #1)

Review: Orientation (Marvel: Avengers Assembly, Volume 1) by Preeti Chhibber; illus. by James Lancett. Scholastic. 176 pp. 8/4/20 978-1-338-58725-8 $13.99

Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Kamala was just an average Pakistani American kid from New Jersey when the Terrigan Mist activate her dormant inhuman cells and turn her into a polymorph, with the ability to lengthen her arms and legs and change size. Inspired by Captain Marvel, she takes on the name Ms. Marvel and starts fighting crime…and destroys a lot of property. And it’s obvious, especially to some senior, more established super heroes that these younger ones need some serious training.

Kamala is ecstatic to be recruited into the Avengers Academy after school program by none other than her hero and fanfic favorite, Captain Marvel. At the academy she is put on a team with Miles Morales (Spiderman) and Squirrel Girl (Doreen Green), and they are taught superhero skills by Beast, liability and other legal responsibilities by She-Hulk. Kamala even takes special classes on controlling her size powers from Ant Man. The bond between the three young supers is lovely, especially when Miles and Doreen find out that Kamala is the author of their much beloved fanfic, and the conversations between the mentor superheroes, like Peter Parker and Miles, is adorable and a lovely revisit for fans from Into the Spider-verse. And though she keeps her identity secret from her family (at least in this iteration) readers will also meet Kamala’s parents and her brother, her friends, including Muslim friend Nakia, and the imam at Kamala’s masjid, Sheikh Abdullah. There are references to hadith, Qur’an and Islamic traditions in how Kamala receives advice and guides her actions as a super hero.

The ultimate test of their powers and ability to work together as a team will be the academic decathlon where student teams will compete and complete a set of challenges. Of course, there are some characters with ill intentions and it’s up to our team to stop them. Chhibber and Lancett’s narrative told in comic form, illustrated text messages, blog posts, newspaper clippings, journal entries, and more, make the reading experience differentiated, but in a way that is appealing to young readers and familiar for fans of comics and comic-like books. Kamala’s friends and family are also mentioned, and Sheik Abdullah even gives Kamala some sound advice for her predicaments. Kid or adult, if you are a Marvel fan (particularly if you are one who enjoys cute, slapstick tumblr blogs, memes, and fanfic of our heroes) you need to check out this fun read for all.

Stay tuned for volume 2 featuring Squirrel Girl as the main lead in April!

Part of this review was originally published in a 2020 post on the Hijabi Librarians Instagram account.

Posted in Books, Reviews

Review: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices

Review: Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices
Edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed; illus. by Sara Alfageeh
Intermediate, Middle School    
Amulet/Abrams   272 pp.    g
5/20    978-1-4197-4083-1    $17.99

For Muslims around the world, the two Eids (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha), conjure images of joy and community and include celebrations which vary by region and consist of different traditions. 

Common traditions for the observance of both Eids often include new clothing, congregational prayers, special foods, and most importantly, time with family and community. Through prose, verse, and imagery, including the vibrant cover art, and a comic selection, authored by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Sara Alfageeh, the stories in Once Upon an Eid capture all of those traditions and so much more.

Consisting of stories by 15 Muslim authors of diverse backgrounds, each selection explores an aspect of human experience with incredible complexity and sensitivity. Characters are relatable, and reflect a range of Islamic practice and identity. Stories are set in a variety of locations, with many taking place in non-Muslim majority countries and communities. Readers are given the opportunity to explore many Eids not just reflecting different cultural ties characters might have but the joys, sorrows, feelings of grief, and love that take place when set against a much beloved and significant holiday. 

In Jamilah Thompkins-Bigleow’s “Perfect,” readers meet twelve-year-old Hawa on her way to celebrate Eid with her father’s side of the family in the Bronx. Though she would rather be celebrating with her friends, she is forced to confront a complicated relationship with her cousin, and the comparisons between them, that are tied to expression of identity and authenticity, body image and style, and family structure. In Hanna Alkaf’s “Taste,” set in Malaysia, the protagonist Alia feels alienated because of her mother’s absence and her sense of guilt surrounding that absence. In N.H. Senzai’s “Searching For Blue”, Syrian refugees make a home for themselves and carve a place for celebration in Greece. Thompkins-Bigelow’s poem “Eid Pictures” connects the joy and imagery of Eid in the African American community, the history of how that community was built in the United States, and the first Eid of stolen ancestors longing for their homelands, community, and faith. 

The subtleties of each story offer readers familiar with particular communities the opportunity to see themselves, some for the first time in print. Readers unfamiliar with the diversity within the Muslim community are given an intimate look into different communities, challenging the false idea that Muslims are monolithic. On a deeper level, this book gives Muslim readers the opportunity to look at, consider, be in conversation with, and understand complex feelings and how we can improve understanding of each other on a fundamental human level with empathy and compassion. Stories are inclusive of different family structures, socioeconomic backgrounds, relationships between Shia and Sunni Muslims, and recent converts to Islam. 

The core of the narratives are examining these familial relationships, expression of cultural, racial, religious identities, self-exploration and self-acceptance and are incredibly intersectional. While Once Upon an Eid centers Eid narratives, its stories are important to share in a library or classroom collection year round and hold universal appeal.
Mahasin and Ariana were recently part of Abrams’ Beyond the Book, and were able to interview editors S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed about Once Upon an Eid.