Publishers Weekly: A starred review!
WWW. P U B L I S H E R S W E E K LY. C O M
★ The Garden of My Imaan
Peachtree, $15.95 (192p) ISBN
Aliya is an Indian-American Muslim preteen trying to make her way through school and life, riding the various divides between the conservative and liberal interpretations of her religion, standing up to the school bully, working up the nerve to talk to her crush and to run for student council, all while dealing with her annoying younger brother and fasting for Ramadanduring Thanksgiving. Aliya’s world is turned upside down with the arrival of Marwa, a Moroccan girl who wears a hijab and seems to fast every day of Ramadan with ease. Embarrassed by Marwa, Aliya starts writing letters to Allah in this modern homage to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret . Zia (Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-Ji) has deep insight into adolescent Muslim life and capably handles diversity within American Islam. She provides one of the better representations of the matriarchy of South Asian families in her depiction of Aliya’s home life—with the strong presence of her mother, grandmother, and even great-grandmother—and seamlessly weaves the Urdu language into her story. Ages 8–12.
Agent: Jennifer Unter, the Unter Agency.
THE GARDEN OF MY IMAAN
While inviting comparison to Judy Blume’s seminal Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, this likable tale of an Indian-American girl who fears drawing attention from those hostile toward Muslims focuses on the social consequences of religious identity, rather than faith itself.
With Ramadan fast approaching, Sister Khan asks Aliya’s religion class to set Ramadan goals and write about what they learn. She expects Aliya to fast not just weekends but weekdays. (Aliya’s loving, supportive family leaves the decision to her.) Like Margaret before her, Aliya pours out her worries and frets over her late puberty in letters to Allah. Her friend Amal has gotten her period and started covering her head. Asked to befriend a Moroccan girl at her public school who wears hijab and fasts during Ramadan, Aliya’s first annoyed, then intrigued at how Marwa finds a place for herself without sacrificing her religious principles. If the downside of open observance is clear to readers, the beliefs and intentions underlying these religious observances, especially hijab, are not. Hijab’s part of her, Marwa says vaguely. “I feel natural in it.” For Aliya’s mother, who doesn’t wear it, “hijab is a symbol of modesty—a good symbol but a figurative one.”
Omissions aside, Zia’s gentle message—that Muslims come from many cultures whose observances differ, while the long shadow of 9/11 hovers over all—is timely and beautifully conveyed. (Fiction. 8-12)
An interview and a wonderful review by Savindi.
Here are the links to the review and the interview.
Farhana talks about Ramadan and The Garden of my Imaan