Amina's Voiceby Hena Khan Published 14 Mar 2017
|Publisher||Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers|
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Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
"Amina's Voice" Reviews
Amina is a Pakistani-American Muslim girl who longs to find the courage to share her vocal talent with others and who struggles to remain loyal to her family’s culture and customs.
Though the opening pages identify Amina’s interest in overcoming her fear of singing in front of others, her driving want fades into the background as she tackles problems concerning her best friend, Soojin. Shortly thereafter, the prospect of a visiting uncle complicates her life further, followed by parental expectation that she participate in a forthcoming Quran competition. It’s a significant number of storylines to tackle in such a short middle-grade novel, and the narrative subsequently suffers from a lack of depth.
Nonetheless, Khan tackles several issues relevant to many young readers. Amina’s best friend, Soojin, is Korean. One of many things they have in common is their culture being mocked or misunderstood.
Like that time [Emily] pinched her nose and squealed while Julie said something smelled like it had died when Soojin brought kimchee in her lunch.
In addition to grappling with feelings of jealousy over Soojin’s decision to be friends with Emily, Amina is bothered by Soojin’s interest in changing her name to Susan once she and her parents become American citizens.
Don’t you like being Soojin?” I asked my best friend in a low voice, leaning across the table to make it harder for Emily to hear. “You’ve been Soojin your whole life. Aren’t you used to it?” [. . .]
“Really, Amina? I thought you, at least, would understand what it’s like to have people mess up your name every single day.” Soojin lets out her sigh again.
Soojin’s decision to pick a new name leads Amina to question her own identity. Should she change too? What adjustments can she make to better fit in at school?
Finally, when tragedy strikes her community in the form of a hate crime enacted on the local mosque, readers get a first-hand look at the devastation and pain caused by such thoughtless acts.
Amina’s fear of public singing returns shortly before the story concludes, providing a weak yet sufficient conclusion to her want identified in the book’s opening pages.
Amina’s Voice is a noteworthy contribution to children’s literature because it features a Muslim girl as its lead protagonist, but the overall story and simplistic writing leave much to be desired.
Special thanks to Salaam Reads for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Books like Amina's Voice are the reason why I started reading diverse middle-grade books. There is something so delightful and special about these books that capture the innocence, optimism, and wonder of children and their stories.
It follows young Amina Khokar, a Pakistani-American girl who lives with her parents and older brother in Milkauwee. Having just started middle school, Amina begins to feel that the things around her are changing, leaving her feeling a little lost and unsure of everything. Her best friend may not be her best friend anymore, her uncle from Pakistan is visiting, her older brother Mustafa is starting to enter the tumultuous period of 'independence', Amina may have to face her fear of performing in public with the upcoming Qu'ran reciting competition (that her parents entered her in without her knowing!) and the upcoming concert that Amina knows she'll sing amazingly in if her worries weren't in the way.
This Quran competition is something I want nothing to do with. I say a quick prayer that Mama wasn't paying attention and that she won't sign me up as everyone gets up and stands in neat rows.
The story in Amina's Voice is simple, but that's what made it so utterly charming and lovely. Being twelve can be a rough time, especially when things are changing, and I adored Khan's portrayal of Amina's struggles: small, quiet, but absolutely significant. The explorations of friendships, family, growing up and faith were fantastic and earnest. Even though I'm a decade older than Amina, Khan's flawless writing transported me back to a time where I was twelve, making me empathize and connect deeply with Amina.
But, this book wasn't written for me; Amina's Voice is for young readers, and I'm pleased to say that this book is perfect for them and it makes me happy knowing that this book exists for young Muslim Pakistani readers. However, what anchors the story from the get-go is Amina herself; I utterly adored her. Compassionate, thoughtful, and conscientious, Amina was a lovely protagonist and a genuine pleasure to read about, and I'm certain many others will love her just as much as I did.
At the story's very core, Amina's Voice is about being true to oneself. There is a particularly heartbreaking scene towards the end of the book, and seeing it through the eyes of the young girl made it all the more devastating. However, the story ends far from a sad note. Instead, the ending of the book offers a hopeful message that emphasizes the importance of community, friendships, and working together to become stronger. It is a beautiful message, one that is hopeful, teaches meaningful lessons, and illustrates the beauty of bravery. An absolutely beautiful middle grade book, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 (rounded up to 5)
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A young Pakistani-American girl faces changes and her anxieties in a sweet middle-grade novel about bravery and community.
Perfect for: readers new to middle grade novels, and if you're in need of something lighthearted that also touches on important topics.
Genre: Middle grade, contemporary
Recommended? Absolutely! ❤️
This review and other book reviews can be found on my book blog, Read, Think, Ponder!
Middle Grade has always been, and will always be one of my favorite genres. The books are so pure, quite easy to get through, and always make me smile. Amina’s Voice isn’t any different.
I listened to this book as an audiobook, and I finished it in 2 days. It was incredible. I usually don’t tend to love audiobooks, I’m not even sure why, but the narration was perfect and really brought the story to life.
As for the story itself, it was quite amazing. Amina, our main character, has to deal with quite a lot, like her feeling like everything around her is changing and she might lose her best friend, her uncle from Pakistan coming to visit and the upcoming Quran competition that she’s participating in, and that she’s incredibly nervous about. It’s all quite simple, but it’s written in such a lovely and touching way that you can’t help but fall in love with it.
I felt the same about the characters, because I adored every single one of them. Amina is such a compassionate and gentle girl who tends to worry a lot, and I really felt for her. I also loved seeing her interact with her family, and especially her parents, with whom she has a very great relationship. I also really enjoyed seeing her interactions with her brother, because while her brother is really starting to turn into a teenager and tries to be cool, he still has some very soft moments when he’s around his sister.
Something that I also really appreciated about this book is that it really shows the importance of community after a (very relevant in today’s society) tragedy strikes. Seeing how everyone comes together and supports each other made me so happy that I started crying, and I really loved how hopeful the message of the book is.
Amina’s voice is a very important and hopeful book, and I really hope a lot more people are going to pick it up. They sure won’t regret it.
Sweet, warm and reassuring - the right sort of story to start off 2017 with. There were several little moments that made me feel like I was reading about my own childhood, from Amina's sweet little prayer to be able to pronounce the "big haa" in Qu'ran classes properly (the struggle is real) to the huge suitcase of gifts from cousins Amina hasn't seen in person for years that her uncle lugs over to the United States. The discussion of Islamophobia is heartfelt and well done and echoes, almost painfully, how it feels to be in your own country and be reminded just how Other you are perceived and treated.
I am so honored to be part of Salaam Reads with a light like Hena, and I am glad that even if I didn't get to read this story as a kid, there are other kids who are going to be reading this in March and smiling and feeling warm inside.
***This review has also been posted on Xpresso Reads
It's in the title of this review post but I am going to repeat it anyway: Amina's Voice is one of the most important books published this year and has clearly not gotten the hype it deserves. It's a middle grade book and I know a lot of people shy away from reading those because reading tastes vary but please don't overlook this book. Amina's Voice is such a wonderful, heartfelt book and deserves and infinite amount of love from everybody.
I should take a moment to say I am neither Muslim-American or Pakistani-American but Amina's Voice still resonated with and I found myself nodding along and feeling Amina's struggle with her cultural identity on a spiritual level. I grew up feeling similar struggles and even though it wasn't ~my story~, it felt really freeing to see that struggle reflected in a book I was reading and made the younger Rashika in me feel a little bit more at rest.
Amina's Voice deals with cultural identity, religious identity and that awkward transition from elementary school to middle school. Even if you went to junior high instead of elementary + middle school, I think we can all agree that 6th grade is weird as fuck. EVERYTHING CHANGES and yet nothing really changes. People who you thought you knew are different. Middle school is just a weird time in general.
Hena Khan also incorporates some food porn into the novel and my mouth was WATERING as I read (and my stomach craved a delicious, home cooked meal.) This book- if you haven't already gathered-deals with such serious issues and does so masterfully. Hena Khan knows her audience well and incorporates thought provoking discussions into the little things.
This is a book that should be in the hands of every middle schooler but young adults and adults can also take so much away from this beautifully, written novel. Don't sleep on Amina's Voice. READ IT and spread the love. We need so much more Muslim rep in children's lit and the existence of this delightful, #ownvoices book is a step in the right direction. Let's support these books though so we can get EVEN MORE.
Note that I received an advanced copy of this book for review.
A sweet, middlegrade story of a Pakistani-American girl, Amina, who is trying to overcome her insecurities about being in the spotlight, being a good friend, and finding the right balance between her roots and the American life. This made for a nice read during Ramadan, and is especially relevant in today's times.