Zia, Farhana. The Garden of My Imaan
1 April 2013, Peachtree
Aliya doesn't like to wear her hijab in public, because people think that all Muslims are responsible for the problems after 9/11, and it's easier to practice her faith if others don't know about it. Since her family is from India, she doesn't think that she shares much in common with other Muslims, especially the new girl, Marwa, whose family is from Morocco and who wears hijab. Aliya is having enough troubles with the bratty Juliana, who ends up running against her for student council rep; with Carly, who doesn't invite her to a birthday party at a spa; and with various boys in her class who say rude things about Mawra. Aliya has an assignment from her "Sunday school" to better herself during Ramadan, and both her grandmother and great-grandmother think this is a great idea and try to help her. When Mawra wants to know if Aliya is going to fast, she decides to give it a try, even though it is very difficult for her. This year, Thanksgiving coincides with Ramadan, making the time even more difficult for Aliyah, since her demanding great aunt is visiting. Seeing how brave Mawra is, and how she stands up for herself and her religion gives Aliya motivation to improve her own religious practices, and she considers wearing hijab herself.
Stengths: The Columbus metropolitan area has a fairly sizable Somali population, and several of the girls in my school who wear hijab happen to be voracious readers. I had a lengthy conversation not long ago with one girl who wanted ANY book that had Muslim characters in it, and I had to tell her that there are just not that many. I will be so happy to be able to hand her this book. Since she would be familiar with the terms and practices, she will connect more with Aliya's emotions and her conflict about her faith; for me, I found the overview of a culture with which I was not familiar very interesting. Perhaps my favorite moment was when Aliya's great grandmother, in a conversation with Aliya's friend, Winnie (who is half Korean), tells Winnie "Chinese, Korean, same thing." Even as Aliya is struggling with trying to prove that she is different from people from other Muslim cultures, her own family has difficulty distinguishing between others' cultures! I will definitely be looking for other books by this author, and am so glad that Peachtree published this!
Weaknesses: I understand why the main character is in 5th grade, I just wish for my purposes that she was older.
Check out the blog tour for this title:
Monday (April 15)
Blue Owl Reviews (BlueOwlReviews.blogspot.com)
3 Bookworms (lettersnumbersandbooks.wordpress.com)
Tuesday (April 16)
Kid Lit Reviews (Kid-Lit-Reviews.com) also on Twitter (@KidLitReviews1)
Wednesday (April 17)
Ms. Yingling Reads (msyinglingreads.blogspot.com)
It’s About Time, MaMaw (itsabouttimemamaw.blogspot.com)
Thursday (April 18)
Books in the Moonlight (booksinthemoonlight.wordpress.com)
Friday (April 19)
Paper Tigers (papertigers.org)