Amina’s Song by Hena Khan | Book Review
I’m always on the lookout for children’s books featuring diverse characters and stories, and for authors from a wide range of backgrounds. My partner’s family is Pakistani, so when I saw this story about Amina, a 12-year old of Pakistani heritage, I was excited to check it out. My favourite children’s book format are picture books, but I also enjoy a good middle-school novel. Read on for more about Amina’s Song.
In the followup to Amina’s Voice, Amina is figuring out how to balance her her American identity and her Pakistani identity. She has an interesting conversation with her cousin doesn’t want to visit America, and Amina expresses that she was scared to visit Pakistan. Both opinions were rooted in the generalizations we hear about both countries. Her dad told her that “people mostly hear and remember bad news”, which is so true. Normal everyday life and relationships don’t make for engaging news.
Another instance where Amina encounters this conflict is during a conversation with girls in her class. They express their sympathy for girls in Pakistan who don’t have any rights. This confuses Amina, who knows this isn’t true at all. Even though her project hero Malala experienced great pain and injury, there are many girls in Pakistan who live typical, safe, and comfortable lives. This is not the side of Pakistan that the world usually sees. After she returns from her trip to Pakistan, Amina commits to reshaping this perception. She wants to share the true realities of life there, even if it’s hard.
Amina’s Song also deals with the usual friendship dynamics that many middle school novels do. Coming back to school after summer is always weird, especially as you get older and start shaping your own identity. Friendships feel off, and everyone’s at different stages. When Amina befriends Nico, her friends assume there’s something more there. Amina just wanted to make music with him. She also gets frustrated that her friends care more about a boy she met than all the memories from Pakistan that she wants to share. The girls do end up seeing eye to eye, but the Amina’s experience reminded me of similar situations I encountered. Life gets weird when you’re 12.
Amina’s experiences parallel those of many girls similar to her. Like her mom wanting her to wear a shalwar kameez to a school dance, when Amina just wants to wear something “normal“. Amina herself is a thoughtful and caring girl, and I enjoyed following her journey.
Do I recommend this book?
I’d recommend this book to any young Muslim girl, or anyone who wants to better understand their perspectives. Hena Khan does a great job of writing to a young audience without shying away from real issues and tough conversations. More than once I found myself wondering how I’d feel in Amina’s shoes.While I’m not in the same situation as Amina, my future daughter could experience the same inner conflicts as her. I liked the Urdu words spread through the book, as I myself am learning it. I recognized a few and learned a few, so that was an added bonus! Amina’s Song by Hena Khan is perfect for 11+, and great for classroom reading and discussion. It would tie in well to units about identity and heritage.
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