Review: A Country Called Amreeka

“Today there are at least an estimated 3.5 million Americans of Arabic-speaking descent, and they live in all fifty states. […] The purpose of this book isn’t to separate them out but to fold their experience into the mosaic of American history and deepen our understanding of who we Americans are.” p. xi

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A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives by Alia Malek.
Free Press, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009.
Nonfiction, 292 pages.
Not leveled.

A walk through American history through the lives of a wide variety of Arab-Americans.

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I picked this book up on a whim, but it turned out to be very interesting nonetheless.  Mostly, I wanted to know why America was misspelled in the title (Amreeka is the Arabic word for America), and after looking at the blurb, I thought this could be an interesting perspective on American history which I personally had not very much considered before.

Much like Prisoners Without Trial, this book opened my eyes to another important part of American history.  Similar to that book, this one also deals with a limited time period, since immigration laws prevented large numbers of Arab immigrants prior to the 1960s.  However, Malek tells her story in a very different (although just as engaging) way.

After a brief forward explaining the background, format and scope of the book, she takes snapshots from various Arab-American lives and uses them to illustrate a wide variety of experiences and time periods.  In between these vignettes are brief chapters that give immigration statistics, updates on legal and cultural developments, and information about world politics that had bearing on Arab-American lives.

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Review: Acts of Faith

“How does a teenager come to hold such a view? The answer is simple: people taught him.” p. xii

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel.
Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007.
Adult nonfiction/autobiography, 189 pages.
Not leveled.

Part autobiography, part nonfiction, this is the story of Eboo Patel’s life, how it could easily have been so very different, and what he feels is most important for young people today.

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This was a very unique read.  Patel intersperses the story of his own life with a look at the way various Western minority youth were influenced by religious extremists and carried out various acts of violence.

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Review: Tears of the Desert

“The onrush of bodies approached in a heaving, panicked mass. Sayed and I went forward to meet them.” p. 209

Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir, with Damien Lewis.
One World Trade Paperbacks, Ballantine Books, Random House, New York, 2009.
Adult memoir, 335 pages including extras.
Not leveled.

Halima Bashir was an unusually lucky girl from birth, when her white eyelash was a good omen.  Combined with hard work, her luck held as she was able to gain an education (unusual for a village girl) and even became a top national scholar, gaining a rare admittance into medical school.  Unfortunately, she lived in Darfur and was a witness to the genocide there.  This is her story of survival among unspeakable horrors.

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This memoir was quite difficult to summarize.  Bashir’s life is a true story that reads like a novel.  Any small portion of this book could be seen as remarkable, but the fact that it all happened and she stood to tell the tale is a miracle.

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Review: Saints and Misfits

“I stand and cringe at the sucking sound as my swimsuit sticks to me, all four yards of the spandex-Lycra blend of it.” page 2

Saints and Misfits: a novel by S.K. Ali.
Salaam Read, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2017.
YA contemporary, 328 pages.
Not yet leveled.

Janna just wants to live her life – hang out with her friends, study, work her very part-time jobs, pray, and maybe dream a little about her secret haram crush.  But something has changed her world, something unthinkable, horrible, and so big she doesn’t know what to do.

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For some reason I thought this was a light and fluffy read.  However, I completely misunderstood, because by chapter two we’re reliving one of the worst moments of Janna’s life, when she is assaulted by a man who is supposedly holy, the man she calls the Monster.

Indeed, the title of each short chapter (Saints, Misfits, or Monsters) relates to how she sees the main people she’s interacting with in that chapter.  Some chapters contain more than one category, or a comment as she begins to realize that some of those she sees as Saints are really Misfits, etc.

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Review: Dressmaker of Khair Khana

“To him it was his highest obligation and a duty of his faith to educate his children so that they could share their knowledge and serve their communities.” page 27

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.
Harper Perennial, Harper Collins, New York, 2012 (first published 2011).
Nonfiction, 270 pages including extras.
Lexile:  1090L  .
AR Level:  not leveled

The story of one young woman and her five sisters who stayed in Kabul and started a home dressmaking business under Taliban rule that not only provided for their family, but also allowed them to teach other women sewing and positioned them to be leaders in Afghanistan’s economy.

Dressmaker of Khair Khana
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

I’d been traveling and was hoping to visit a specialty gift shop to pick up some diverse books, only to find it closed, so I found a nearby library.  The library wasn’t so diverse, but had extremely cheap books, so I purchased a bunch for under $1 total, including this one.

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Board Book Review: It’s Ramadan

Our 36th board book will be great once Baby’s a little older.

It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, 2016.
Tabbed board book, 14 pages.

Curious George is guided through Ramadan by his friend Kareem.

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It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young.

This is the largest board book we’ve gotten yet, almost the size of a regular picture book!  The text also is fairly advanced for a picture book.  Each two-page spread (there are seven, as you can see by the tabs down the side) has three full paragraphs of text following an abcb rhyme scheme.

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Graphic Novel Review: Malcolm X

“In the end, the only certainty may be that America had lost one of its most original and outspoken leaders.” page 101

Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, art by Randy DuBurke.
Serious Comics, Hill and Wang, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2006.
Graphic novel biography, 102 pages plus extras.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  6.6 (worth 3.0 points)  .

A black and white comic-style graphic novel biography of Malcolm X.

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Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, illustrated by Randy DuBurke.

For some time now, I’ve been trying to find a great middle grade children’s biography of Malcolm X.  I’ve gotten some from the library, and purchased a few.  So far none have greatly impressed me, which is why I’m just now getting around to reviewing them.  Children’s biographies of Malcolm X have a tricky balance to strike.  Islam must be included, since it was an important part of his life and work.  His militant views (and later ideas about a more hopeful society) can’t be left out, but should be presented in a way appropriate for children.  It’s a tall order.

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