Saturday, November 16, 2019

All-American Muslim Girl

Courtney, Nadie Jolie. All-American Muslim Girl
November 12th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ali's father is of Jordanian/Syrian descent, and her mother is Anglo-American, so she doesn't "look" Muslim. Fair, with reddish hair, she sometimes has to diffuse situations in public when her father comes under scrutiny. Even though her extended family embraces their background and her cousins speak Circassian and Arabic, Ali's family is areligious and not concerned with cultural traditions. While this makes it easy for Ali to "pass", she feels guilty about denying her heritage, and wishes that she could communicate more with her grandmother. In her sophomore year of high school, she's trying to establish herself at yet another new school, since she's moved around a lot with her college professor father's job. She has a bit of a crush on Jack Wells, and he seems to return it, which is a pleasant, giddy feeling. When she connects with Dua, who is raising money for Syrian refugees as part of a Muslim student group, Ali starts to question her own actions. Should she stand up to people who make comments about Muslims in her presence, since they don't suspect the comments affect her directly? She joins a Qu'ran study group and even experiments with wearing a hijab, but matters are complicated when she starts to date Jack. He's a great guy, but his father is an anti-Muslim political pundit. Not only that, but her own father doesn't really support her investigation into religion and culture. What face does Ali want to present to the world, and how will her decision affect her life?
Strengths: This is worth buying if only for Ali's interactions with an Islamophobic passenger on the airplane. Since this is YA, it's not as plot driven as what I usually read, but all of the characters are interesting. Ali's journey of figuring out her identity will ring true with many readers, and the romance with Jack is a bonus!
Weaknesses: For middle grade readers, some of the in-depth discussion on religion and politics will not be overly appealing-- it slows down the story. It's great for high school readers, but some younger readers seem to like more action.
What I really think: I will buy a copy of this for some of my older readers who like Sarah Dessen and Kacey West, although I rather wish it had a photo or drawing of Ali in a hijab on the cover. I have a lot of avid readers of Somali descent who don't often see hijabis on the covers of books and seem to really enjoy finding them!

Ms. Yingling

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