“Sometimes I feel that I don’t fit in. Years ago, during a sleepover at a friend’s house, some girl I barely knew asked questions about my ethnicity. I was wearing pink nail polish and she asked me, ‘Your parents allow you to wear nail polish?’ As if Muslim girls can’t wear something harmless like nail polish. Those ignorant comments come only once in a while, because my real friends know that I do fit in. People who know very little about me think my mom will come to school wearing a veil or sari, and they’re wowed by how hot she is (the only time her hotness makes me look good). Or they think Dad will have a long terrorist beard and bland clothes, but he always comes to school in a suit, looking all suave and charming. I don’t mind if my classmates see my parents, but it’s best that they don’t. Like most people my age, I pretend that my home life and my school life are on different planes of existence.”
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, believers are not supposed to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. For the first time ever, fifteen-year-old Almira is fasting with her family, and it’s hard work! Combined with learning to drive, her first crush, getting braces, and some drama with the new girl, Almira has her hands full. How can she get Peter to notice her at school? How can she get her grandfather to understand that she’s just a normal American teenage girl, and not trying to be disrespectful or rebellious? And why is the new girl so mean?
I have a special interest in books featuring minorities for young adults, and was so pleased to see a book about a Muslim teen on the shelves at my library, especially one that focuses on issues beyond cultural differences (for example, Almira’s crush, an understandable preoccupation for a teen, is a main plot element). While there is some discussion of religious beliefs, Almira’s family is portrayed neither as exactly like everyone else in the novel, nor as religious extremists with an oppressive belief system. In short, they’re normal, and there’s no need to dwell on it for pages. Young lovers of chick-lit will be delighted with Almira’s authentic voice and her interactions with her friends, as well as the teenage traumas of braces and driving lessons, while I, for one, am thrilled to see representations of the Muslim teen in the YA lit world.
Author’s website: http://www.medeiasharif.com
Sharif, Medeia. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. Flux Books: Woodbury, MN, 2011. 298 pp. Ages 13-16.
If you’d like to read more like this, Does My Head Look Big in This? is a good place to start!