by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
I loved this beautiful story so very much. In Amina's Voice by Hena Khan (which would be appropriate for upper elementary students as well as middle or high), Amina is starting middle school. She has the struggles every kid that age has -- where does she fit in? how does she adjust as her friends change? -- but she also has struggles related to her specific experience as a Muslim Pakistani American child of immigrant parents growing up in a community where she sometimes feels like an outsider.
When her best friend, Soojin, whose family is from Korea, decides to become better friends with another girl, Emily, who had previously been unkind to both of them, Amina finds herself a bit unmoored by the new friend dynamics. And as Soojin's family prepares to become American citizens, Soojin considers changing her name to something that she thinks sounds more American, which is really tough on Amina. The way that both Soojin and Amina have had to struggle with their classmates mispronouncing their names has been a significant anchor in their friendship, and Amina has trouble imagining what it will be like if Soojin suddenly changes her name. Meanwhile, Emily embraces this change and helps Soojin brainstorm options, furthering Amina's feelings of isolation.
I love the way that Khan explores the struggle to balance being true to oneself with the desire to fit in with a group. Amina struggles to work through so many things with her family and her friends, and yet she continues to find her way forward in the face of the challenges. While I want to avoid spoilers here, I do want to share that this powerful book also touches on hate crimes in a very age appropriate and approachable way.
I loved this gorgeous novel and would highly recommend it! I talked about it in our Read Aloud Book Recommendations episode -- I think it would be great for that as well. Have you read this one? What is a middle grade novel that you've loved? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!
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