Middle school is bringing with it a series of changes, and not all of them welcomed by the young Amina Khokar.
Her Korean American best friend Soojin is not only thinking of adopting a more “American” name, but also becoming closer friends with Emily, one of their elementary school tormentors. Added to that is Amina’s own anxiety about having to speak on stage at an upcoming Quran competition at the local Islamic Center, and the visit of her more conservative uncle from Pakistan, who disapproves of Amina and her brother’s inability to speak Urdu, and frowns upon her piano playing, saying it’s forbidden in Islam. Things come to a head when the Islamic Center and Mosque are both vandalized, leaving the young girl upset and feeling more lost and confused than ever.
Amina’s journey to finding her confidence is a somewhat familiar one, but in author Hena Khan’s (It’s Ramadan, Curious George) more than capable hands it becomes a rich and, unfortunately, timely one. Amina’s anxieties are entirely relatable, but it’s her sweet-hearted nature that makes her such a winning protagonist. The warmth and care with which Khan writes her infuses every aspect of the story, allowing a hopeful message to come through even when events seem to be at their most dire. Throughout, Khan also gently folds in cultural details (both Pakistani and Islamic) that allow Amina’s tale to be both specific and universal.