Amina's Voice

Pakistani American sixth grader Amina Khokar and her best friend Soojin Park were always "the only kids in elementary school who had names that everyone stumbled over." But now Korean-born Soojin, whose family is about to gain U.S. citizenship, wants to change her name to something more American, like Jessica or Melanie. She's also warming up to a popular white girl named Emily who has never been friendly to Amina and Soojin. Soojin seems to be moving into adolescence faster than Amina can keep up, and their comfortable friendship is teetering. "[S]omething about Soojin wanting to drop her name makes me worry that I might be next," Amina says. Meanwhile, Amina's shyness prevents her from auditioning for a school solo even though she longs to sing; her older brother, Mustafa, is pushing back against the family's Muslim traditions; and their conservative uncle is coming for a three-month visit, during which their parents expect them to "be perfect." Their close-knit family is on edge as their Muslim customs bump up against contemporary Milwaukee culture. When a terrible act of vandalism against their mosque throws her community into fearful turmoil, Amina must decide if she's brave and open-minded enough to use her voice to make a difference.

Amina's Voice is the first title in Salaam Reads, Simon & Schuster's imprint dedicated to publishing books that feature Muslim characters and stories. Hena Khan (It's Ramadan, Curious George) writes a gentle coming-of-age story universal in theme and original in context, and appealing to any reader who has just wanted to slow the world down. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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