The Garden of My Imaan
Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kid--the fact that she's Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya's school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? She's old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?
Gr 4-7-Aliya is worried about fitting in at her New England school for many reasons. Other girls go to parties and talk about boyfriends, but her family is Muslim, so the fifth grader has to think about how these things do or don't fit in with what her religion teaches. Will the other kids notice when she fasts for Ramadan? What type of reaction might she face if she decides to wear the hijab? With Ramadan approaching, her teacher at the Islamic Center tells her to communicate with Allah, and taking the advice of her great-grandmother, Aliya decides to write letters to Allah explaining her concerns. As the year progresses, Aliya works at understanding herself and her faith, and with the support of a new Muslim classmate, she comes to appreciate her many blessings and her identity. The author recognizes the diversity of the Muslim population (Aliya's family is from India, while the new girl is from Morocco); however, the book is definitely slanted toward a more conservative Islamic viewpoint, particularly with regard to the hijab. Aliya mentions that her mother feels that Muslim women can be modest without covering up, and a classmate at the Islamic Center discusses how her parents are not happy about her decision to wear the hijab, but these ideas are not explored further. The novel is at its best when depicting Aliya's interactions with her grandmother and great-grandmother as well as comic incidents such as a halal turkey mix-up at Thanksgiving dinner. This would be a good addition for libraries serving Muslim populations; it also might be of interest to non-Muslim readers wanting to find out more about the religion's everyday life and practices.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Terrorist. Go back to the desert. Drive a camel. Growing up Muslim in the Northeast, Aliya encounters racism on the streets and in her fifth-grade class, even though her family members are not strictly observant Muslims, she does not wear the hijab, and she doesn’t even speak Arabic. She hates it that she is supposed to help a new student, Marwa, who does wear the hijab. Her big interest is in Josh, but he likes her classmate Juliana, and Aliya loses to Juliana in the election for class rep. Aliya’s diarylike entries to Allah about her conflicts are sometimes contrived, but her wry first-person narrative perfectly captures her middle-school struggles with friends and enemies, as well as her family and her faith, as she changes her perspective, stands up to a bully, and wonders if she should wear the hijab after all. True to Aliya’s contemporary viewpoint, which is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, the messages are never heavy. Grades 4-8. --Hazel Rochman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
** Starred Review **
"Zia (Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji) has deep insight into adolescent Muslim life and capably handles diversity within American Islam." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review, March 18, 2013
"[Aliya's] wry first-person narrative perfectly captures her middle-school struggles with friends and enemies, as well as her family and her faith, as she changes her perspective, stands up to a bully, and wonders if she should wear the hijab after all. True to Aliya's contemporary viewpoint, which is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, the messages are never heavy." --Booklist, May 1, 2013
"Zia's gentle message-that Muslims come from many cultures whose observances differ, while the long shadow of 9/11 hovers over all-is timely and beautifully conveyed." --Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2013 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Number of Pages: 192
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Author: Farhan Zia
Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
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I purchased this book for my children but I read it myself first. It's a quick read for an adult and definitely worth your time, I loved it! I whole heartedly think that this book should be required reading for 5th graders in western countries with a Muslim minority population. Someone unfamiliar with Islam could learn a lot, all while being entertained, win-win! My favorite thing about this book was that the varying degrees of orthodoxy within the wider Muslim community are presented as natural and almost expected. The various interpretations of Islamic teachings that exist within the main character's family alone is important to note and something I don't think the majority of the population (of both muslims and those of other faith backgrounds) truly accept or care to admit to openly. The Muslim community is often painted with a single brush, but that's not reality. Differing views regarding dietary restrictions, observing the fast during Ramadan, daily religious practice, pre-marital relationships, and of course the veil/hijab are all in here. The author really put it all on the table in a way I haven't really seen before and in a way that is accessible to young readers whether they were born into a Muslim family or have never met a Muslim In their life! My favorite line from the book was towards the end when Aliya compliments Marwa saying 'I wish I could think like you' and Marwa responds by telling Aliya to just be herself. I thought that was perfect advice for Aliya who is so mixed up with one foot in her American pre-teen world and the other in her South Asian American family and all of the expectations and pressure that comes along with both of these roles. Highly recommend this book!