Now that Amina is in middle school, it seems everything is changing. Her best friend Soojin wants to hang out with Emily. Amina remembers Emily making fun of her and Soojin in elementary school. Soojin wants to celebrate becoming an American citizen by changing her name, and she wants Amina to help her pick something “American.” Amina struggles to find her own place in the shifting world. Soojin encourages her to sing a solo for a chorus concert, but Amina worries she’ll freeze up and be unable to speak. Then she learns she’ll have to speak at a recitation of the Quran. She dreads the idea, especially when her very strict uncle from Pakistan volunteers to coach her the verses she’s selected to speak.
When her mosque is vandalized and the recitation canceled, Amina feels devastated. In the wake of the disaster, the community rallies around her, and she discovers that friendship crosses boundaries and survives changes, sometimes even flourishes because of them.
I heard about this book on Aisha Saeed’s blog where she recommended several books, including this one. I enjoyed reading about a practicing Muslim family and Amina’s struggle to balance her spiritual beliefs with other parts of her life. As a practicing Christian who grew up in public school, I remember facing some of the same kinds of challenges and having some of the same fears and concerns.
I loved that Amina’s best friend is a practicing Christian, too. Actually, during middle school, my best friend was a practicing Jew. I found that having deep spiritual commitment gave us a kind of common ground I wouldn’t have expected, because we both held deep belief that sometimes held us apart from our classmates.
It’s funny… I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to watch that relationship as a parent (my parents loved my friend and clearly valued our friendship.) Now, as a parent of a child in a school district with a significant Muslim presence, I find I feel similarly. I would love for my daughter to have a friend like Amina. I think having someone to share that feeling of otherness that comes from a deep faith and challenging each other to love across religious lines was one of the most valuable experiences I had as a middle school kid.
My own experience aside, I loved this book. It was easy to identify with Amina. She’s a good girl who wants to do right and struggles with fear and shyness. The story really delves into her understanding of friendship and community, issues common to all of us. I enjoyed the way her relationship with her parents, her brother, and her friends at school changed as she grew to see herself differently and began to explore her connection with her community more deeply.
If you’re looking for a story that exemplifies the power of coming together as a family and a community, this is a great pick. Amina’s Voice is also a good read for a shy child trying to find his or her place in the changing landscape of school transition.
Amina and her family are practicing Muslims. Her parents are from Pakistan, and an uncle from Pakistan comes to visit the family. Amina’s best friend Soojin and her family are Korean.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Amina’s family takes time to pray and attend services. Her uncle has much more strict beliefs than Amina’s family. When he visits, he expresses some of his more conservative views—such as music being sinful. Amina worries that her love and talent for music make her an evil person. Her parents share their own views—that Allah gave her this special talent for a reason—and this comforts her.
When Amina lets a secret slip and embarrasses a friend, she worries that she’ll be condemned for speaking against someone, as her uncle claims. Her parents reassure her that harming someone else wasn’t what was in her heart. Therefore, they tell her, she’s not the evil person the scripture in the Quran meant to identify.
After an attack on the mosque, the community, including a local Christian church, rallies together to help raise funds and find ways to repair the damage and provide places for services in the meantime.
Amina and her family witness the aftermath of a fire and destruction at her mosque.
Amina worries after learning her brother spent time with boys who were smoking. She bursts into tears when confronting him, but feels reassured to learn he didn’t smoke with them.