Book Review: Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Genre: Middle-Grade, Contemporary
Hi there! This is my first official review on my blog so I hope you enjoy!
This book was my first completed selection for the #AsianLitBingo challenge (see my TBR here) and it was a PERFECT way to start off the month. Published earlier this year, Amina’s Voice is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read in a long time (inside and out!)
Synopsis: “A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel…
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.” (Find out more on Goodreads here!)
The story centres around Amina and her family in present-day Milwaukee, illustrating a difficult and confusing period in Amina’s life, as a growing young Pakistani-American girl in middle-school with an amazing musical talent she’s too afraid to show to the world.
The novel follows Amina and her family as they navigate their respective anxieties, hopes, and expectations, while balancing religion and culture in American society and finding each of their own paths within it all. Each struggles with balance and self-doubt, like how her father must reconcile his views of Islam and fatherhood with the expectations and standards held by the adored yet strict Thaya Jaan. Her brother also works to negotiate his conflict between school, basketball and young boyhood rebellion, and Amina struggles between her self-confidence, self-assurance, and identity with what she knows to be valuable, enjoyable and important.
For Amina, it all starts at school, when her best friend, Soojin, starts to make some transitions. Soojin is so excited to officially become an American citizen, even hoping to change her name to one that is “more American,” and she also starts hanging out with a notoriously mean girl who used to tease her and Amina. These changes really throw Amina for a loop, calling into question her place at her school, as well as her place in the world. Additionally, when her Thaya Jaan comes to visit from Pakistan, his slightly different worldview makes Amina even more confused about who she is and what her best path should be. Khan exquisitely captures Amina’s anxiety surrounding all the confusion around her, as well as her actions and reactions resulting in a really accurate depiction of a young mind coming to terms with the complexity of the world.
What I loved most about this novel was how it communicated themes of family, community, and unity in difference by emphasizing the importance and beauty of what makes us each unique. However, I also loved how we, the readers, navigated both the everyday, relatable problems of adolescent girl life within a tight-knit family, as well as more mature and complicated issues, made youth-accessible by the author, that are highly relevant in our current political climate: issues that our young children inevitably come face to face with both at school and at home.
“Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.”
I found this book highly comforting in a world pretty much devoid of all comfort right now. While it touches on themes of Islamophobia and racial discrimination, it also provides solace in highlighting the support and hope that is still present in many of our communities; communities that, in the face of hate and adversity, work everyday for a brighter future that is safe for all. It really did make me feel hopeful, which is difficult to do lately. Khan depicted 12-year-old girlhood in such a relatable way, for I was stressing and worrying right alongside Amina, just as I was relieved and at peace when she was too.
I highly recommend this quick and relentlessly charming read to all young readers, but also for any and all who are looking for a warmed heart amidst all the cold.
I rated Amina’s Voice 5 out of 5 stars.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Have you read Amina’s Voice? What did you think?
If not, how does it sound to you? And do you know of books that are similar or sound similar to Amina’s Voice that you’ve read?
Let me know in the comments below!