Farah, a fifth-grade student of Indian Muslim origins at a fancy girls’ school in Los Angeles, must bring in something representing her mom for International Women’s Day, but the usually creative student can’t imagine what would impress her classmates.
When her mother finds her looking through her closet, Farah feels guilty, but her mother reveals that she herself has a secret. Widowed a few years before, Farah’s mom is opening “The Hijab Boutique,” a store selling Muslim headscarves. Farah finds a topic for her speech, and her mom makes a new start. Some explanations of Islamic practice are woven into the novella, particularly a discussion of why some women wear the hijab. The contemporary story has subplots concerning friendship and cliques, but the leaden prose will limit readership. Narrator Farah reflects on her father’s gold convertible: “I find the courage to stare at the symbolic fruit of his hard work.” In the final chapter, “Conclusion,” Farah too quickly tells readers that the “Cool as Ice” girls aren’t so important, and she feels good in a new neighborhood, where she has joined the Muslim Girl Scouts and has a new friend. The realistic black-and-white pencil illustration that accompanies this summation shows her wearing a hijab.
Books about North American Muslim life are badly needed, but this short novel is too pedantic, albeit well-meaning, to appeal broadly. (Fiction. 9-11)