Welcome to our books on a theme lists! Today’s topic is Muslim life. I (Margaret) pair a couple adult and children’s books about Muslim life together. Both you and your baby librarian can read and explore together! Well, at least sorta together. I doubt you’ll want to read the adult picks with a baby or toddler. I’m also cheating because both my adult picks are YA, but hey, just as many (or more) adults read YA as teenagers!
Adult Books About Muslim Life
Internment by Samira Ahmed
This is one of my favorite books of the year. It takes place in the very near future, where an unnamed president (ahem, Trump, cough cough) has created a Muslim registry, which has led to the first Muslim internment camp. This actually was an idea put forth by President Trump and shot down. He claimed a precedent was set by the Japanese internment camps–a bit of U.S. racist history we should never, ever repeat. As you can tell, the book is very much inspired by current events without ever explicitly calling anyone out.
Layla is a teenager living a completely normal life. She has a boyfriend. She goes to school. She has parents who worry and care about her. And then everything changes when she and her family are sent to the first Muslim internment camp. At first, the worst part of being in the camp is not being able to see her boyfriend, but then the anger hits. The unfairness. And with a tyrannical camp director (would a normal person ever even agree to be a director of something like this?) the camp becomes dangerous. Anyone who poses a threat disappears. But Layla isn’t someone who is going to back down to tyrants.
This book is hard to put down. I wanted to read it in a single sitting. And isn’t that cover perfect!? It says everything about the book. Some people on Goodreads argue the book is too heavy handed in its themes, but I did not find it so at all. There’s no “light” way to address resistance to oppressive regimes, racism, and genocide. The book packs a punch, as it should.
The Candle and the Flame by Nafiza Azad
This #ownvoices Muslim YA fantasy releases tomorrow, May 14th. Yay!
In The Candle and the Flame, Azad creates a gorgeous and diverse fantasy world (as gorgeous as the cover). Noor is a city made rich by the diversity of its population. People of many religions, backgrounds, races, languages, and cultures live together in a single city. Oh, and djinn too, of many different djinn tribes. Fatima was one of the few survivors of a day when the Shayateen djinn slaughtered almost the entire city. But now the city is protected by the Ifrit. Until the Ifrit commander dies, and Fatima’s life is changed forever.
A couple things make this stand out from other fantasy. First, the diversity of the city. I read a lot of fantasy, and while many writers attempt to create diverse cities, they almost always fall short. But Noor is perhaps the richest and most diverse fantasy city I’ve ever read. Second, the relationship between the women characters is amazing and complex and everything you’ll want it to be. The women are amazing.
This is a stand alone fantasy, so you won’t have to wait for a Book 2!
Children’s Books about Muslim Life
Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, Illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel
This book explores all the different ways a little girl’s family wears the hijab. Her mother, a doctor, wears a bright pink hijab tucked under her white lab coat, but at home, she takes of the hijab and wears her hair in a loose braid. Her grandmother wears a neatly folded hijab as she bakes pies in a bakery, and her aunt has brightly colored streaks in her hair, under her hijab. These role models inspire ways the little girl can wear her hijab, like wearing butterfly clips beneath it. This book helped me better understand the hijab, and Marian enjoyed the bright and friendly illustrations. It’s a simple book, perfect for early elementary aged children.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Illustrated by Ebony Glenn
Another head wear book! I personally had never heard the term khimar before, and I love it when I can learn something new from Marian’s books. A khimar is similar to a hijab, but generally longer. In this picture book, a little girl loves playing dress up with her mother’s khimar. Her favorite of the khimars is a bright yellow one. She can pretend she’s the sun, and in my favorite illustration, she pretends she’s a mommy bird protecting her son (the little girl’s baby brother). The art looks like a painting, and the pages are bright and colorful. This book is also geared toward early elementary, but Marian and another little girl her age listened to me read the entire book at the library.
Both of these books normalize the wearing of the hijab or khimar, and are therefore great to have in both a Muslim child’s library and any child’s library. It’s a great place to introduce why some people wear different kinds of clothes. Another great companion book to these two is Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh.
Do you have favorite books about Muslim life?