The Butterfly Mosque
G. Willow Wilson
In this satisfying, lyrical memoir of a potentially disastrous clash between East and West, a Boulder native and Boston University graduate found an unlikely fit living in Cairo, Egypt, and converting to Islam. Wilson embarked on a yearlong stint working at an English-language high school in Cairo right after her college graduation in 2003. She had already decided that of the three Abrahamic religions, Islam fulfilled her need for a monotheistic truth, even though her school did not include instruction in the Qur'an because it angered students and put everybody at risk. Once in Cairo, despite being exposed to the smoldering hostility Arab men held for Americans, especially for women, she found she was moved deeply by the daily plight of the people to scratch out a living in this dusty police state tottering on the edge of moral and financial collapse; she and her roommate, barely eating because they did not know how to buy food, were saved by Omar, an educated, English-speaking physics teacher at the school. Through her deepening relationship with Omar, she also learned Arabic and embraced the ways Islam was woven into the daily fabric of existence, such as the rituals of Ramadan and Friday prayers at the mosque. Arguably, Wilson's decision to take up the headscarf and champion the segregated, protected status of Arab women can be viewed as odd; however, her work proves a tremendously heartfelt, healing cross-cultural fusion.
The Muslim Next Door
Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about, beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism, and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali's vivid anecdotes about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive, scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the world's fastest growing religion.
It's OK To Be Different
From Publishers Weekly: It's OK To Be Different combines rainbow colors, simple drawings and reassuring statements in this optimistic book. His repetitive captions offer variations on the title and appear in a typeface that looks handcrafted and personalized. A fuschia elephant stands against a zingy blue background ("It's okay to have a different nose") and a lone green turtle crosses a finish line ("It's okay to come in last"). A girl blushes at the toilet paper stuck to her shoe ("It's okay to be embarrassed") and a lion says "Grr," "ROAR" and "purrr" ("It's okay to talk about your feelings"). Parr cautiously calls attention to superficial distinctions. By picturing a smiling girl with a guide dog ("It's okay to need some help"), he comments on disability and he accounts for race by posing a multicolored zebra with a black-and-white one. An illustration of two women ("It's okay to have different Moms") and two men ("It's okay to have different Dads") handles diverse families sensitively this could cover either same-sex families or stepfamilies and also on the opposite page, a kangaroo with a dog in its pouch ("It's okay to be adopted"). He wisely doesn't zero in on specifics, which would force him to establish what's "normal." Instead, he focuses on acceptance and individuality and encourages readers to do the same.
One Green Apple
Grades K - 2
From School Library Journal: As a Muslim girl rides in a hay wagon heading to an apple orchard on a class trip, the dupatta on her head setting her apart, she observes that while some of the children seem friendly, others are not. Her father has explained, ...we are not always liked here. Our home country (never named in the story) and our new one have had difficulties. Later, when she puts a green apple into the cider press instead of a ripe red one as her classmates have done, they protest. But the cider from all their apples mixed together is delicious - a metaphor for the benefits of intermingling people who are different. Lewin's watercolors radiate sunlight and capture the gamut of emotions that Farah experiences on this challenging second day in her new school in the U.S. They show her downcast silence and sense of isolation because she can't speak the language, her shy smile when a classmate befriends her, and, finally, her triumphant smile as she speaks one of her first English words, App-ell.
My Name is Bilal
Grades 2 - 6
From Booklist: Bilal and his sister, Ayesha, who are Muslim, start school in a new city. At first Bilal tries to blend into the largely non-Muslim environment, calling himself Bill and ducking out of sight when two boys try to pull off Ayesha's head scarf. Encouraged by a sympathetic teacher and his own faith, Bilal finds the courage to stand up with his sister the next time the boys tease her. Bilal and Ayesha point out to their adversaries that they too were born in America and that being American means that they can wear what they want. By standing up for his sister, Bilal earns the boys' respect and takes the first step toward a possible friendship. The story is told in picture-book format, though the text is longer than that of most picture books. In the illustrations, the students appear to be in middle school, but the book is accessible to younger children as well. Appearing on nearly every double-page spread, large-scale watercolor paintings clearly portray the actions and attitudes of the characters. A good starting place for discussions of cultural differences, prejudice, and respect for the beliefs of others.
From a Kirkus Review -- "There are only two types of people who spend their Friday nights in high school at home - Pakistani Muslim girls and future serial killers." Although Nina Khan was born and raised in small-town Deer Hook, N.Y., and has never visited her parents' homeland, she must adhere to their rigid cultural and religious beliefs, including no sleepovers, alcohol or dating. With dark skin, a wide bottom and an overabundance of body hair that makes her a "skunk girl," what are her chances of dating in the predominantly fair-skinned, closed-minded town anyway? But when Italian Asher transfers to her high school, she dreams of romance for the first time. In this debut, episodic novel, rife with smart, self-deprecating humor and set in the 1990s just as a phenomenon known as e-mail is gaining interest, Nina searches for identity and emerging independence while accepting the reality of her home life.