ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM GIRL, by Nadine Jolie Courtney, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Nov. 12, 2019, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
In a time where our country feels more divided than ever, and racism is so thick you can practically taste it, books like All-American Muslim Girl, by Nadine Jolie Courtney, are more important than ever.
Allie Abraham has it all going for her — she’s a straight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. I
t’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith — studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it.
Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in? —Synopsis provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
While All-American Muslim Girl is about a girl discovering her Muslim faith, it has a broader appeal on a number of levels, particularly for teens of any faith who are experiencing or have experienced a religious awakening of their own. It’s easy to find many parallels here that further erase, or at least soften, the “us vs. them” mentality.
Author Nadine Jolie Courtney has walked a fine line with All-American Muslim Girl, which is first a novel, but serves as a sort of Islamic primer. Allie was born into a sort of “lapsed” Muslim family. Because of that, she lives on the periphery of her extended family. They love her unconditionally, but she often feels as if something is missing.
When Allie decides to explore her Islamic heritage, readers get a front-row seat. We learn as she learns, question as she questions and experience her inner turmoil as she grapples with broader societal issues like dating, sexuality and feminism. Add in Allie’s encounters with a condescending shock-jock, and you have the perfect setting to address common misconceptions.
There are a few small moments where all this feels a little too on-the-nose, but those instances are few and far between. What you have instead, is a poignant story of a girl who finds a way to live in two worlds while being true to herself.
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