Hijab and Basketball by Umm Nura
📚 BOOK REVIEW 📚
Title: Hijab and Basketball
Author: Umm Nura
Illustrator: Devika Chitale
Publisher: Gentle Breeze Books
Rating: 4/10 🌟
Amina moves to a new school which means she has to explain her hijab all over again. When she arrives at school on her first day, she meets Jennifer, and they quickly connect with each other over their shared weekend engagement, Sunday school although they belong to different faiths. As the day progresses, she is met with whispers in class, blunt confrontations in the lunch room and hostility in the basketball court. At home, her mother shares the story of Nusaybah bint Ka'ab and her strong faith, strength and contribution in Islam. So when Amina was faced with further conforntations in school, she remembers her story to bring her confidence to stand up for her faith. At one point Jennifer asks Amina why she wears hijab and this open conversation brings the girls to a point of understanding. At their basketball game, Amina is put in a position make the choice of removing her hijab in order to play the game, or she doesn't get to play.
There are a few things that are intertwined in this story: Faith, Hijab, Friendship, bullying, interfaith, confidence and identity. This is the very first book I had ordered a couple of years ago that undertakes the subject of hijab. I love the idea of looking back to important individuals of the companions as role models to learn from their stories and personalities to overcome our present day obstacles. Having said that, I find this story is lacking on a few major components. Amina's first response to why she wears a hijab is "...every girl wears hijab for different reasons. My story won't be the same as another girl's story of hijab." I am conflicted with this response: why are we afraid to say our reason to wear a hijab is to please God, our Creator. This is the basis of everything we do in Islam: to ensure that our Lord is happy with us, we listen and obey Him. Keep in mind that Allah rewards are based on our intentions. However, the second part of the answer stands true: our journey into hijab is for sure different from one person to another. This is connected directly to our faith. At what point in her life a person is ready to embark on the journey of hijab is unique. Amina then goes to explain that *her friend* had told her that hijab has a spiritual light that we cannot see, however, the angels are able to see it from the heavens just like we see the twinkling stars at night. Since I had never come across this concept in the past, I had to search into it from an Islamic perspective and came out empty. This causes a big confusion. No, the book does not claim that this is Islamic, however it does give that implication. It is so important to reference citations of where information like this comes from.
As a reader, I find it very difficult to connect with the protagonist, Amina. This story is only told from an onlooker's perspective thus telling us next to nothing about Amina's internal conflicts, thoughts and emotions. How she feels and experiences the bullying incidents? How does she internalize seeing the concept of hijab in other faiths, sister Mary and Coach Jupti? Or even her internal conflict of having to make the decision of standing firm in her faith or compromising her belief for a basketball game. I feel like the interactions between the girls are quite forced and unnatural. I also love the intention that the reader is encouraged to see the commonalities between the faiths instead of differences but it wasn't elaborated at all so I would have loved to see more about it included here. Instead of seeing the protagonist grow and evolve in the story, it was obvious that Jennifer matured in the end. I did not love the illustrations, one of the pages was quite pixelated. Overall, this story has a great concept but could have been much better executed in its presentation.
Islamic Content: Hijab, identity, Nusaybah bint Ka'ab's story
Other concerns: concept of Hijab having spiritual light that angels can see from the heavens