As Diverse Kids' Books Increase, A Chance for More Muslim Stories

Posted by Cybil on August 7, 2017


Back-to-School Reading is sponsored by XFINITY.

Hena Khan is the author of Amina’s Voice, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, and Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story, among other children's books. She's a native of Rockville, Maryland, where she lives with her husband and their two sons.

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As both a reader and author of "diverse" books, it's encouraging to see a heightened awareness of and interest in books that include long underrepresented voices. It seems obvious today that the body of children's literature should have always reflected the entirety of the colorful world we share. But we all know that it hasn't.

And after many years of growing awareness of the need for diverse books, we are finally seeing characters of all backgrounds, races, abilities, genders, religions, and cultures being embraced and celebrated, and have a growing selection of books to choose from, including those featuring Muslims.

I'm grateful to have had support for my stories for a number of years and am encouraged by a recent push to add new Muslim voices. At the same time, I can't help but worry that there will be an over reliance on certain understandable but nonetheless limiting and even dangerous narratives. I also worry that publishers and others will check off the "Muslim story" box once they have one or two books on their list, and decide that is enough to represent 1.6 billion people in the world.

In the US, American Muslims hail from more than 70 countries, and include many immigrants and children of immigrants. But we also descend from African slaves, Arabs who immigrated at the start of the 1900s, and converts of all types. Muslims vary in our traditions, cultures, languages, attitudes, dress, and habits in every way possible. We are as different from each other as any other group of people—Christians, Warriors fans, politicians, and circus performers. And we are so much more than the terrorist narrative, refugee story, or immigrant struggle.

Muslim writers of all backgrounds, and writers who are connected to or familiar with our traditions, are rising to the occasion and offering beautiful, relatable, and memorable stories that speak to the human experience. Writers of color and those who belong to marginalized communities often have to defend their characters, selling them as multi-dimensional people "who just happen to be [insert group]."

What we need more of are a lot more books on a whole lot of subjects by every kind of person that are simply good reads. Maybe then we get to the point where books just happen to be "diverse."

Khan's recommended picture books:
The Best Eid Ever
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Deep in the Sahara
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Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words
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The Conference of the Birds
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Khan's recommended middle-grade reading:
A Long Pitch Home
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A Long Walk to Water
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Shooting Kabul
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The Garden of My Imaan
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Khan's young adult recommendations:
That Thing We Call a Heart
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Saints and Misfits
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Does My Head Look Big In This?
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The Authentics
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You can find all of Hena Khan's books here. Like her children's book recommendations? Be sure to add some of Khan's picks to your Want to Read shelf.

Check out more of our back-to-school coverage:
Rick Riordan's Books to Hook Middle School Readers
How to Encourage Kids to Read (Plus Some Modern Children's Classics)
Great Children's Books for Young History Buffs

Back-to-School Reading



Comments Showing 1-43 of 43 (43 new)

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message 1: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Great recommendations but confused why A Long Walk To Water is among a list of books representing Muslims. The book is about Salva Dut, a Christian man who escaped murder by Sudanese soldiers. He's Dinka and would be in South Sudan if he hadn't had to flee his country as a refugee. Did the list creator read these books?


message 2: by Holli (new)

Holli This is at the heart of this "diversity" blog. A constant push for this Muslim stuff.


message 3: by Celia (last edited Aug 17, 2017 12:44PM) (new)

Celia Okay, Goodreads. Two can play this game.

*Diverse* Muslim books I recommend below. Read and tell me if Islam improved a single situation. (I'm not suggesting the USA is the answer to ANY of the world's problems, but I am saying that Islam definitely isn't either. I also do NOT equate Arab = Muslim, because that's simply not true. Nor do I hate ANYONE.)

I will listen to all logical arguments.

Crossing the Wire One Woman's Journey into the Hidden Dangers of the Afghan War by Annamaria Cardinalli Persepolis The Story of a Childhood (Persepolis, #1) by Marjane Satrapi Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Song of the Nightingale by Helen Berhane


Samantha (WLABB) I read 3/4 YA suggestions. All were fabulous. They were all really beautiful coming of ages stories, which incorporated the MCs culture, and I enjoyed them immensely.


message 5: by Rana (new)

Rana The amount of ignorance in this comment section is unreal SMH


Elizabeth ♛Smart Girls Love Trashy Books♛ Rana wrote: "The amount of ignorance in this comment section is unreal SMH"

I was just about to say that!


message 7: by Nitya (last edited Aug 17, 2017 02:21PM) (new)

Nitya This is a beautiful post and honestly I agree, we need a wide range of stories/characters who just happen to be Muslim. It's great to shut down stereotypes, but Muslims are human beings first and their lives shouldn't be pigeonholed to "terrorist/refugee/immigrant" stories.

Also the Islamophobes commenting apparently forgot about the Crusades, Charlottesville, Charleston, Oklahoma City, Oak Creek, Atlanta, etc.


message 8: by stella (last edited Aug 17, 2017 02:27PM) (new)

stella some of the comments here are ugly, but the books look interesting and the write-up is beautiful - thank you!


message 9: by Ravi (new)

Ravi Celia I think you might have mistaken the point here. No one is trying to advertise Islam to anyone else. No one is putting forward Islam as the 'solution.' What is happening is a push to represent the viewpoints of a group of people who have been unfairly marginalised in society. These books aren't about Islam, they're about Muslims.


Elizabeth ♛Smart Girls Love Trashy Books♛ Crow-bait wrote: "Don't bother commenting. The comments are being heavily censored and deleted if they don't fit Goodreads' agenda. Like this one."

Really? This comment isn't deleted for me....


message 11: by Ravi (new)

Ravi Crow-bait if you read the comment section you'll see that it's filled with people who apparently think that a push to ensure a broad range of perspectives in children's literature is a bad idea.


message 12: by Matty-Swytla (new)

Matty-Swytla LOL - yes, censorship is now in full-blown mode. So sad, only righthink is now allowed. Can't say anything critical about the propaganda, now can we.


message 13: by Dennis (last edited Aug 17, 2017 03:16PM) (new)

Dennis Matty-Swytla wrote: "LOL - yes, censorship is now in full-blown mode. So sad, only righthink is now allowed. Can't say anything critical about the propaganda, now can we."

Now 2 my comments were deleted. Free speech everybody!
I bet the person doing the deleting does not even realize the, well, oppression of free speech he/she is doing..


message 14: by Ravi (new)

Ravi Well now one of my comments has been deleted. Can I complain about censorship of left wing views now?


message 15: by Matty-Swytla (new)

Matty-Swytla Hey, doesn't matter left of right, censorship of either is bad.


message 16: by Emily, Community Manager (new)

Emily Please remember to keep all comments civil, and any post that attacks another person or their religion will be removed.


message 17: by Lanie (new)

Lanie Dude.

Everyone relax. No one is saying Islam is a solution or is better than Christianity or whatever it is you're getting worked about.

All they're saying is "here some some good books about characters who happen to be Muslim." That is all.

We just want to see more than a sea of white, Christian, heterosexual, cisgender characters in book stores. We want GOOD representation of other people and cultures. That's NOT a bad thing.

Some of these books look pretty good. :) I will check them out.


message 18: by Karina (new)

Karina Wow...
2 hours ago I left a polite comment pointing my concerns about this subject (basically I said that the main problem is intolerance Islam has towards diversity).
Aaaaaand, my comment was deleted.

I don't usually participate in the comment sections, so thank you very much for this.


message 19: by Samantha (WLABB) (new)

Samantha (WLABB) I thought this was such a lovely post, and I love learning about other people. I am very saddened by these comments, as you cannot judge a huge amount of people as being of one mind. Every race/religion/etc has some bad apples, but I like to believe that the majority of people are good.


message 20: by Ravi (new)

Ravi I think a post like this one attracts people with negative views, and doesn't reflect what the majority of people on this site actually believe.


message 21: by Holli (new)

Holli Wow. I see plenty of posts were deleted by GR. I guess only ONE side gets to speak their mind here. I guess GR doesn't believe in "diverse"voices.


message 22: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Sam wrote: "I read 3/4 YA suggestions. All were fabulous. They were all really beautiful coming of ages stories, which incorporated the MCs culture, and I enjoyed them immensely."

Very nice. I think that I've read The Best Eid Ever and its somewhere in my holiday book section. I'm sorry if i sounded bad in the post about A Long Walk To Water. Think it was mistake because Sudan is Muslim majority but the Sudanese government focused on killing and driving out Christian and Anamist religion southerners so they could have the oil without the people. Now it's South Sudan and the the ethnic groups are fighting for control without governing. The subject of A Long Walk to Water and the author are from the Rochester N.Y. area where I'm from. I'm appalled by the anti-Muslim attack attacks on here. I work with many people who are Muslim. Its a religion, and people aren't completely defined by their religion just like being Christian doesn't completely define Christians. Many of the refugees I've met are going places. The parents might have low paying jobs, but the kids are going to attend college and not just the local community college. The kids excel in school, apply themselves, and are getting scholarships to small private and public colleges and moving up to Masters and PhDs to Yale, etc while native born Americans only think of Associates degrees, maybe a Bachelor's degree.


message 23: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Holli wrote: "Wow. I see plenty of posts were deleted by GR. I guess only ONE side gets to speak their mind here. I guess GR doesn't believe in "diverse"voices."

I have a feeling they were abusive towards Muslim. Many kids are in American schools and are Muslim. They deserve books for them and reflect their lives. I have a student who was ears a hijab and i had a picture book called My Hijab. She declined to allow me to read it for months but some day in an afterschool program, she allowed me to read it and it went over really well. In our own small group of girls, she showed us herself without the hijab and discussed it. It made her feel more accepted by her peers.


message 24: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Ravi wrote: "I think a post like this one attracts people with negative views, and doesn't reflect what the majority of people on this site actually believe."

Probably true. The Muslims i know are wonderful and i love them. Great food they share with me too. And no, they aren't trying to recruit me.


message 25: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Holli wrote: "This is at the heart of this "diversity" blog. A constant push for this Muslim stuff."

Did you think that educators and parents need reading material for kids who are Muslim and live in the U.S.? That's who this list is directed at, schools are opening up soon.


message 26: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Celia wrote: "Okay, Goodreads. Two can play this game.

*Diverse* Muslim books I recommend below. Read and tell me if Islam improved a single situation. (I'm not suggesting the USA is the answer to ANY of the wo..."


Persepolis and The Kite Runner are great books. The others i haven't read but look like Christian propaganda. Cultures have bad with the good. Its always easy to condemn alien cultures from far away. Our country currently has Neo-Nazis and Confederate, White Nationalists advocating the subjugation of a large number of Americans so people who are white can control the country and determine what happens in government.


message 27: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Mariann wrote: "Have any of you actually read the Quran?"

No. I was in Malaysia several years ago and was given a copy of the Quran, one side in English and the other in Arabic. My mother used to be in a religious reading group in the 70s, and she read the Quran, Bible, The Book of Mormon and other religious hooks. They are around here somewhere. My mother insisted i keep them all as Holy books.


message 28: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Mariann wrote: "Have any of you actually read the Quran?"

Have you read the Qur'an and how much?


message 29: by Lynn (new)

Lynn I will not be silenced wrote: "How sad that only the hateful left gets a chance to post here. You can't silence everyone. You may as well delete this entire blog post."

I hope Goodreads doesn't do that because that could be the point of some people here. Except for one error, its well worthwhile. I'm going to be looking up some of these books.


message 30: by Lynn (new)

Lynn We will not be silenced wrote: "Lynn wrote: "I hope Goodreads doesn't do that because that could be the point of some people here. Except for one error, its well worthwhile. I'm going to be looking up some of these books."

Do yo..."

You don't feed religion to kids in school nor are these books about that, these books are about kids who are Muslim. There are many Muslim kids in American schools. Have you read any of these books? I don't think so. Books in schools often cover holidays, Christmas, Passover, Purim, Easter, Ramadan and Eid, usually Eid al Fiter and Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa, Holi, Buddhist New Year, etc. It's not promoting religion, its just acknowledging facts of life and children's experience. Children study religion and culture in schools. If a parent wants to opt out, they have every right to do so. Parents want their child to be educated and know about the world, country and community.


message 31: by Gunther (new)

Gunther CONFIRMED: Goodreads is run by Antifa. No free speech allowed here.


message 32: by Connie (new)

Connie Celia wrote: "Okay, Goodreads. Two can play this game.

*Diverse* Muslim books I recommend below. Read and tell me if Islam improved a single situation. (I'm not suggesting the USA is the answer to ANY of the wo..."


Religion improves some situations and makes others worse. Sometimes the same religion does both things in the same situation.


message 33: by Connie (new)

Connie Karina wrote: "Wow...
2 hours ago I left a polite comment pointing my concerns about this subject (basically I said that the main problem is intolerance Islam has towards diversity).
Aaaaaand, my comment was dele..."


"Islam" no more is intolerant towards diversity than any other religion with millions of adherents. Your concerns are ignorant and prejudicial - and thus completely irrelevant here.


message 34: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Connie wrote: "Celia wrote: "Okay, Goodreads. Two can play this game.

*Diverse* Muslim books I recommend below. Read and tell me if Islam improved a single situation. (I'm not suggesting the USA is the answer to..."


Yes


message 35: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Connie wrote: "Karina wrote: "Wow...
2 hours ago I left a polite comment pointing my concerns about this subject (basically I said that the main problem is intolerance Islam has towards diversity).
Aaaaaand, my c..."


Watching Dalya's Other Country. About a family of Syrian refugees in California. On PBS. Really good.


message 36: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Gunther wrote: "CONFIRMED: Goodreads is run by Antifa. No free speech allowed here."

ANTIFA is pro- free speech. They have barely any members. The Neo-Nazis, Neo-Confederates, and White Supremacists are much more dangerous and often not free speech but want their views to be the only ones espoused.


message 37: by Karina (new)

Karina Connie wrote: ""Islam" no more is intolerant towards diversity than any other religion with millions of adherents. Your concerns are ignorant and prejudicial - and thus completely irrelevant here. "

Did I say it was the ONLY intolerant religion? No. I didn't.
And I agree with you regarding other religions, however, this post is about muslim stories, so that's what I'm talking about.

But you think my comment is irrelevant.
We were supposed to have a good and polite discussion here.
But no. People just say "oh, you are ignorant and irrelevant".

This is the reason I don't often participate in comments.


message 38: by Lynn (new)

Lynn You're acting like Islam is an intolerant religion that has some mysterious secret up its sleeve to harm you or do evil in the world.


message 39: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Quist Connie wrote: "Islam" no more is intolerant towards diversity than any other religion with millions of adherents. Your concerns are ignorant and prejudicial - and thus completely irrelevant here.

If you feel someone is ignorant, it's generally a better idea to try to educate them than berate them and label them irrelevant. That kind of attitude does not foster harmony or understanding. Discussion is much more helpful than condemnation. I saw Karina's original post. She raised a few issues that are worth conversation.

I'm rather amazed by the number of people on a site dedicated to books that are okay with shutting down speech.


message 40: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Matty-Swytla wrote: "LOL - yes, censorship is now in full-blown mode. So sad, only righthink is now allowed. Can't say anything critical about the propaganda, now can we."
It isn't censorship when the person who owns the site is choosing to delete hateful, hurtful comments. It is Goodreads' site and they have the right to do with it, our posts and our comments as they choose. It would help to everyone if they would learn the true meaning of "free speech" " courtesy" and "censorship"


message 41: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Karina wrote: "Wow...
2 hours ago I left a polite comment pointing my concerns about this subject (basically I said that the main problem is intolerance Islam has towards diversity).
Aaaaaand, my comment was dele..."
Perhaps it was because your comment, while your opinion, is completely untrue. It might help you to read some non- propaganda books regarding Islam. There is nothing intolerant about Islam. Some of the cultures are intolerant toward change but even they are changing. And, as you can read in this blog post, one does not have to be Muslim to be intolerant. America has grown gravely so over the past few years.


message 42: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Lynn wrote: "Great recommendations but confused why A Long Walk To Water is among a list of books representing Muslims. The book is about Salva Dut, a Christian man who escaped murder by Sudanese soldiers. He's..."

Toward the end of the post the author mentions that diversity among marginalized, lesser known people and authors also were included.


message 43: by Mackey (new)

Mackey Holli wrote: "This is at the heart of this "diversity" blog. A constant push for this Muslim stuff."

It's great, right? A long time overdue. Afterall, western civilization knows so very little about Eastern culture and Islam and I am thrilled that America, which opens its arms to ALL people without regard to race, creed or religion, allows everyone to diversify and be equal. It's such a great opportunity and wonderful post!


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