The Garden of My Imaan

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4.5 (2)
 
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The Garden of My Imaan
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
April 01, 2013
ISBN
9781561456987
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Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kidsthe fact that shes Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliyas school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? Shes old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Highly necessary
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
What I Loved:
I’m used to seeing most MG and YA Muslim rep in the form of Arab Muslims, but Aliya provides a different perspective as a tween girl from an Indian Muslim family. Her family observes Ramadan as many other practicing Muslims around the world do, but their cultural practices as an Indian family are mixed in as well. Aliya's dynamic with her family is lovely, especially when it involves her grandmother and great-grandmother.

What Left Me Wanting:
At times, it seems to offer commentary on how people of color can perpetuate racism against other people of color as well. Though it’s a one-scene wonder and never comes up again, Aliya’s grandmother expects Aliya’s half-Korean best friend Winnie to be good at math because Asian people are “all the same.” Sadly, it’s played off as a joke.

It demonstrates the same point a bit unintentionally as well through Winnie’s mangling of the Spanish language on a basic level. Winnie once calls someone a “loco mujer” and “crazy woman” is offered as a translation. Later, she says Aliya looks “precioso” in something. As soon as you learn adjectives in Spanish, you’re taught that they’re gendered and typically placed after a noun, not before it. “Mujer loca” is how to correctly call a woman crazy; if a girl looks beautiful or beautiful in something, she looks preciosa. Some adjectives like inteligente (intelligent) don’t change form based on the noun’s gender, but the two used in the book do.

If there’s a term for when a Manic Pixie Dream Girl is entirely platonic, The Garden of My Imaan is guilty of using the trope through Marwa, the hijabi girl and new kid at Aliya’s school. Marwa exists to say whichever sage thing Aliya needs to hear at a given time and teach Aliya to be more comfortable with her Muslim-ness. The book’s heavy focus on Aliya leaves Marwa bereft of her own character arc and reduce her to a heavily didactic character in a novel that already feels more like a teaching tool than a reading experience.

Final Verdict:
Typically, a book like The Garden of My Imaan would be a little too didactic for my tastes, but this is 2016. Due to an outdated, broken electoral system, a minority of the United States pushed an openly racist and Islamophobic man into the presidency and the world will suffer for it. With rhetoric like his shaping the world, The Garden of My Imaan is highly necessary and offers a new view into life for Muslim families post-9/11.
Good Points
*Rep of Indian Muslim family
*Family dynamic is heartening and fun
*Kinda like ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET for Muslim girls
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A Timely Multicultural Book
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Aliya doesn't like to wear her hijab in public, because people think that all Muslims are responsible for the problems after 9/11, and it's easier to practice her faith if others don't know about it. Since her family is from India, she doesn't think that she shares much in common with other Muslims, especially the new girl, Marwa, whose family is from Morocco and who wears hijab. Aliya is having enough troubles with the bratty Juliana, who ends up running against her for student council rep; with Carly, who doesn't invite her to a birthday party at a spa; and with various boys in her class who say rude things about Mawra. Aliya has an assignment from her "Sunday school" to better herself during Ramadan, and both her grandmother and great-grandmother think this is a great idea and try to help her. When Mawra wants to know if Aliya is going to fast, she decides to give it a try, even though it is very difficult for her. This year, Thanksgiving coincides with Ramadan, making the time even more difficult for Aliyah, since her demanding great aunt is visiting. Seeing how brave Mawra is, and how she stands up for herself and her religion gives Aliya motivation to improve her own religious practices, and she considers wearing hijab herself.
Good Points
My area has a fairly sizable Somali population, and several of the girls in my school who wear hijab happen to be voracious readers. I had a lengthy conversation not long ago with one girl who wanted ANY book that had Muslim characters in it, and I had to tell her that there are just not that many. I will be so happy to be able to hand her this book. Since she would be familiar with the terms and practices, she will connect more with Aliya's emotions and her conflict about her faith; for me, I found the overview of a culture with which I was not familiar very interesting. Perhaps my favorite moment was when Aliya's great grandmother, in a conversation with Aliya's friend, Winnie (who is half Korean), tells Winnie "Chinese, Korean, same thing." Even as Aliya is struggling with trying to prove that she is different from people from other Muslim cultures, her own family has difficulty distinguishing between others' cultures! I will definitely be looking for other books by this author, and am so glad that Peachtree published this!
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