Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
Books like Amina’s Voice are the reason why I started reading diverse middle-grade books. There is something so delightful and special about these books that capture the innocence, optimism, and wonder of children and their stories.
It follows young Amina Khokar, a Pakistani-American girl who lives with her parents and older brother in Milkauwee. Having just started middle school, Amina begins to feel that the things around her are changing, leaving her feeling a little lost and unsure of everything. Her best friend may not be her best friend anymore, her uncle from Pakistan is visiting, her older brother Mustafa is starting to enter the tumultuous period of ‘independence’, Amina may have to face her fear of performing in public with the upcoming Qu’ran reciting competition (that her parents entered her in without her knowing!) and the upcoming concert that Amina knows she’ll sing amazingly in if her worries weren’t in the way.
This Quran competition is something I want nothing to do with. I say a quick prayer that Mama wasn’t paying attention and that she won’t sign me up as everyone gets up and stands in neat rows.
The story in Amina’s Voice is simple, but that’s what made it so utterly charming and lovely. Being twelve can be a rough time, especially when things are changing, and I adored Khan’s portrayal of Amina’s struggles: small, quiet, but absolutely significant. The explorations of friendships, family, growing up and faith were fantastic and earnest. Even though I’m a decade older than Amina, Khan’s flawless writing transported me back to a time where I was twelve, making me empathize and connect deeply with Amina.
But, this book wasn’t written for me; Amina’s Voice is for young readers, and I’m pleased to say that this book is perfect for them and it makes me happy knowing that this book exists for young Muslim Pakistani readers. However, what anchors the story from the get-go is Amina herself; I utterly adored her. Compassionate, thoughtful, and conscientious, Amina was a lovely protagonist and a genuine pleasure to read about, and I’m certain many others will love her just as much as I did.
At the story’s very core, Amina’s Voice is about being true to oneself. There is a particularly heartbreaking scene towards the end of the book, and seeing it through the eyes of the young girl made it all the more devastating. However, the story ends far from a sad note. Instead, the ending of the book offers a hopeful message that emphasizes the importance of community, friendships, and working together to become stronger. It is a beautiful message, one that is hopeful, teaches meaningful lessons, and illustrates the beauty of bravery. An absolutely beautiful middle grade book, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Rating: 5 / 5
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A young Pakistani-American girl faces changes and her anxieties in a sweet middle-grade novel about bravery and community.
Perfect for: readers new to middle grade novels, and if you’re in need of something lighthearted that also touches on important topics.
Genre: Middle grade, contemporary
Recommended? Absolutely! ❤️
- Have you read Amina’s Voice before? What did you think of it?
- What’s something that is a part of your childhood that you’d love to see in a middle grade book?
- What’s another middle grade novel that you think would be great for marginalized younger readers?