“‘When exactly does Ramadan start, anyway?’ I asked.
‘The second week in November,’ Amal said. ‘How could you not know that?
‘I haven’t been thinking about it yet,’ I replied. ‘I suppose I’ll fast on weekends like last yea-Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t Thanksgiving a couple of weeks later?’
‘Oh…school.’ I stammered. “You know…’
‘My little sister already fasts on school days and she’s only ten,’ Sehr said.
Nafees pointed at me. ‘Let me guess. You don’t want to fast on school days because you don’t want to stick out, right? Fraidy cat!’
Aliya is trying to sort herself out: she wants to practice her faith, but she’s worried about how her classmates will react. Will they think she is weird for wearing the hijab? What about fasting for Ramadan? Aliya’s not sure that she is brave enough to take those big steps at school, but when Marwa, a new student from Morocco, joins the school, things change. Marwa isn’t ashamed of wearing her hijab, nor is she shy about doing bold things like running in the student elections. With Marwa’s help, Aliya learns about the importance of standing up for your beliefs.
This gentle story explores the intersections of family, faith, and identity, and is a welcome addition to any collection or classroom. Zia focuses on the diversity of beliefs within Islam-not every Muslim expresses her faith in the same way! With a tone similar to other home/classroom dramas for the middle grades, this story evokes the warmth of Zia’s close family, while at the same time remaining true to the very real concerns that young people often have when trying to express and explore their own beliefs. I’d like to see many more books like this out there.
Zia, Farhana. The Garden of My Imaan. Peachtree: Atlanta, 2013. 192 pp. Ages 11 and up.
If you liked this book, you should try these other books that explore similar themes of religion, identity, and prejudice.
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif
Where I Belong by Gillian Cross
Boy vs. Girl by Na’ima B. Robert