Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Fight Back

Dassu, A.M. Fight Back
October 11, 2022 by Tu Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Aaliyah lives an hour from London with her mother, who is a lawyer, her father, who has just been promoted to the Head of Science position at his secondary school, and her older brother who is getting ready to go to university. After some incidents in London, there are a lot of people who are mistreating Muslims, and Aaliyah and her mother are accosted in the car park of a local grocery store and told to "go back home". Since bother Aaliyah and her mother were born in the UK, and her father came to the country from Tanzania when he was very young, this is very hurtful. Aaliyah goes to a concert with her best friends, and there is a bombing there. One of her friends, Lisa, has a brother who is very anti-Muslim, and says hateful things to her. Not wanting to wait for her friend's parents to pick them up, Aaliyah goes to her aunt and uncle's house nearby. The whole area is on high alert, and accusations fly about who might have caused the bombing that killed and injured many. A white supremacist organization keeps putting up flyers, and Aaliyah is concerned that her brother might be preparing to fight these dangerous groups. When an elderly neighbor goes into hospital and leaves his cat behind, Aaliyah finds the animal and hides it in her room, taking great comfort in Furball, even though her mother is very allergic. She also deals with her stress by thinking about wearing the hijab, so that she can show everyone that Muslims are good people. Her mother, who starting wearing the hijab in college, thinks that Aaliyah is too young and it is too dangerous. When her school bans the hijab, Aaliyah is very angry, and she and her friends plan a protest. How will she be able to stand up for herself when so many things are against her?
Strengths: Aaliyah's challenges with her friends are very realistically portrayed, and I loved the fact that this was upper middle grade, since she was able to have a lot of freedom that a younger child would not. Her reasons  for wanting to wear the hijab are well considered, and this decision is something that a lot of middle school age readers will be considering. The book moves quickly and has a lot of thought provoking topics. 
Weaknesses: This felt very British, and I'm not sure how appealing that will be to my students. I adore books set in England, but it's a tricky balance to find ones my students will enjoy. (Liz Pichon's Tom Gates books have a lot of fans, but Onjali Rauf's don't circulate well.)
What I really think: This had an important message, and is a good book to pair with Bajaj's Count Me In or Kelkar's As American as Paneer Pie

Ms. Yingling

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