Omissions aside, Zia’s gentle message—that Muslims come from many cultures whose observances differ, while the long shadow...

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)

Pub Date: May 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56145-698-7

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET.

The comical longings of little girls who want to be big girls—exercising to the chant of "We must—we must—increase our bust!"—and the wistful longing of Margaret, who talks comfortably to God, for a religion, come together as her anxiety to be normal, which is natural enough in sixth grade.

And if that's what we want to tell kids, this is a fresh, unclinical case in point: Mrs. Blume (Iggie's House, 1969) has an easy way with words and some choice ones when the occasion arises. But there's danger in the preoccupation with the physical signs of puberty—with growing into a Playboy centerfold, the goal here, though the one girl in the class who's on her way rues it; and with menstruating sooner rather than later —calming Margaret, her mother says she was a late one, but the happy ending is the first drop of blood: the effect is to confirm common anxieties instead of allaying them. (And countertrends notwithstanding, much is made of that first bra, that first dab of lipstick.) More promising is Margaret's pursuit of religion: to decide for herself (earlier than her 'liberal' parents intended), she goes to temple with a grandmother, to church with a friend; but neither makes any sense to her—"Twelve is very late to learn." Fortunately, after a disillusioning sectarian dispute, she resumes talking to God…to thank him for that telltale sign of womanhood.

Which raises the last question: of a satirical stance in lieu of a perspective.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1970

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1397-8

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Bradbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1970

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Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around...

THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE

Cooler-than-cool newcomer Styx Malone takes the more-sheltered brothers Caleb and Bobby Gene on a mischievous, path-altering, summer adventure of a lifetime as they embrace the extraordinary possibilities beyond the everyday in rural Indiana.

Readers may think an adventure such as they’ll find here wouldn’t be possible in the present day; this story takes place outside, where nature, know-how, creativity, and curiosity rule. Creeks, dirt roads, buried treasures, and more make up the landscape in Sutton, Indiana. Younger brother Caleb narrates, letting readers know from the outset that he’s tired of his dad’s racially tinged determination that they be safely ordinary: “I don’t want to be ordinary. I want to be…the other thing.” With Styx Malone around, Caleb and Bobby Gene will sure figure out what that “other thing” can become. The three black adolescents are enchanted with the miracle of the Great Escalator Trade, the mythic one-thing-leads-to-another bartering scheme that just might get them farther from Sutton than they’ve ever dreamed. As they get deeper and deeper into cahoots with Styx, they begin to notice that Styx harbors some secret ambitions of his own, further twisting this grand summer journey. “How do you move through the world knowing that you’re special, when no one else can see it?” begs the soul of this novel.

Heartening and hopeful, a love letter to black male youth grasping the desires within them, absorbing the worlds around them, striving to be more otherwise than ordinary. Please share. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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