Sixth grade is off to a rocky start for Amina. Her best friend, Soojin, is talking about changing her name to something more "American" and becoming chummy with Emily, a White girl from a clique who used to bully Amina and Soojin; her brother and her parents are engaged in an ever-escalating battle of the wills; and to top it all off, her conservative uncle comes for an extended visit from Pakistan and tells Amina that her piano-playing and love of music is un-Islamic. When vandals deface and desecrate the local Islamic Center, the larger community comes together to restore it, answering the worst of humanity with the best.
Accessible, compulsively readable, and all heart, the mundanity of the plot of Amina's Voice belies the power of this middle-grade novel. At its core, it's about taking the first step toward growing up: the painful but empowering process of taking ownership of your beliefs, especially when they don't perfectly align with those of the people you love. Amina struggles to navigate the mires of family, friendship, and faith, but ultimately finds that the ties of culture and community are made all the stronger when she finds and asserts her own voice.
Reviewed by Allie Jane Bruce