Amina Khalid is a sweet, amiable teenager—and a solid counterexample to Islamophobia and negative notions about Somalis.
The 14-year-old Somali Muslim teenager lives in war-fractured Mogadishu. She shares her grenade-damaged home with pregnant Khadija, elderly Ayeeyo, her older brother, Roble, and her father, political artist Samatar Khalid. Unlike the stereotypes of Muslim men oppressing Muslim women and girls, Amina’s loving father and exasperated brother support the “itch in her fingertips” that “[drives] her to keep creating.” Like her dad, Amina creates renegade art—not paintings on canvas like Samatar, but multimedia street art using bombed-out buildings, hoarded charcoal, poetry, cloth strips, and other pieces of her beloved metropolis. Powers’ prose is honest, though descriptions of events such as giving birth as a circumcised woman, kidnappings by real-life Islamist group al-Shabab, and death are sometimes elliptically described. She leavens Amina’s difficult situation with school, crushes, unexpected friendships, faith, spoken-word face-offs, and real-life context as Amina and her fellow citizens reconfigure what “normal” means for their families, city, and, by extension, country. Taken as a whole, this entry in the Through My Eyes series is solid but not gripping—and that’s OK.
Readers don’t always need another heroine—sometimes a young woman living an ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances will wilt stereotypes better than heroics. (map, author’s note, timeline, glossary, further reading) (Fiction. 13-16)