Four sisters in a Muslim, Pakistani American family star in Khan’s (Amina’s Voice, 2017) 21st-century update to a beloved classic of American literature.
The narrator is Jam (short for Jameela), a seventh grader bent on becoming a journalist. Her family newsletter, Mirza Memos, is all hers, but on the school newspaper she fights to make her voice heard about publishing important subjects. Her older sister, Maryam, is in high school. Maryam’s beauty is what people notice, but she is also studious, responsible, and caring. The youngest, Aleeza, brings out the worst of Jam’s temper, while gentle Bisma brings out Jam’s protective, loving instincts. Exit Baba (their father) for an international work contract; enter Ali, a cute British Pakistani boy who befriends all the girls, but especially Jam. Add money problems and the sudden discovery of a serious illness for Bisma, and you have a carbon copy of Little Women that feels comfortingly familiar yet also entirely new, like an old friend given a makeover. The characters are believable and endearing, and their problems are emotionally weighty. The ways they find to support each other through difficulties, to fight, and to forgive highlight the reasons why Little Women still finds adoring fans. Cultural content such as Jam’s article on microaggressions and the Mirza family’s no-dating rule (despite Ali’s flirtation) add interest as well.
A delightful concept well executed, this volume is sure to find many fans. (Fiction. 8-12)