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MTYT: The Bone Sparrow

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Subhi, who is nine, is a member of the Muslim Rohingya people of Burma and lives in an off-shore Australian detention camp. He was born there, unlike his sister Queenie. All he has known is the life in the detention camp. Barbed-wire fences and the brutality of the guards who oversee every moment of the campsite define his entire lived experience. His dreams at night and his ruthless reality during the day intersect in a never-ending labyrinth. The appalling food and living quarters, the enclosed spaces and the forever-watchful guards are what he knows as life. His family consists of his mother, sister and Eli (a boy who takes him under his wing, protects him from bullies and provides better quality food for him and his family). He meets a young girl who lives on the outskirts of the camp, and who has lost her mother recently. She is a prisoner of her own reality. Together both characters make sense of their lives.

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MTYT: Amal Unbound

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

In Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Amal is an outspoken Pakistani teen who is confident in who she is. She lives in a small village in Punjab (the largest province in Pakistan comprising 62% of Pakistan) and is educated there. She wants to be a teacher and loves reading. She lives there with her father, mother and many younger sisters. Her mother is pregnant again and afraid that she will bear another girl. Amal happens to come in front of the car of the son of village elder and powerful local landlord, Jawad. She confronts the rude person and as a result the landlord calls in Amal’s family debts. Amal ends up in the landlord’s home as a payback. She befriends other servants as well as Jawad’s mother. She has it easy as she is only person serving the mother and not doing any menial labor. In her time there, she discovers criminal actions by the landlord and reports it. She ends up connecting with Asif (a U.S. educated teacher) in the village’s literacy center, funded, ironically, by the Khan family. This is where she learns that the significant family she works for is not invincible. Indentured servitude, class, gender and literacy are some of the themes this novel explores.

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MTYT: Internment

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

Continuing on the theme of displacement and its representations in young adult and children’s literature, we turn our attention to Internment by Samira Ahmed. Layla Amin is an everyday American minding her own business before an Islamophobic president of USA orders a round up all Muslims and throws them in internment/detention camps due to the faith that they follow. Layla’s father is a professor at a university and writes poems with revolutionary content. He loses his job and his books are burned. The detention camp that the Amins are relocated to is situated close to the actual detention camp that the Japanese internment camps were located in California. It is headed by a director who thinks he is above the law and orders attacks on the inhabitants and is deliberately cruel to the women. Layla takes action and riles up the rest of the teenagers in the camp to conduct demonstrations in order to be released from the camp. There is a national uproar as her blog posts and videos get out to the public, which brings reporters and other people to be stationed outside the camp and sends Red Cross workers in the camp as observers. Some guards (especially one in particular) and Layla’s Jewish boyfriend, on the outside help. It is a novel that has hope in its culmination.

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MTYT: Saltypie

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

As we continue to focus on the theme of displacement and its representations in young adult and children’s literature, we turn our attention to Saltypie by Tim Tingle. Through family history of racism and displacement, as well as powerful family love and togetherness, Saltypie tells the true story of a young Choctaw boy and his grandmother. In this 2010 picturebook put out by Cinco Puntos Press, Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle shares a story from his own family. One central concept, highlighted in the title, is that Tingle’s grandmother is blinded by a racist neighbor throwing a rock at her after they moved from Oklahoma to Texas. She regains her sight through an eye transplant much later in her life. Reviews and awards for Saltypie include ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2011, Booklist, 05/01/10, Kirkus Reviews, 04/15/10, Library Media Connection, 11/01/10, Publishers Weekly, 04/26/10, School Library Journal, 05/01/10, and Wilson’s Children, 10/01/10.

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MTYT: The Night Diary

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ and Celeste Trimble, Celeste Trimble, St. Martin’s University, Lacey, WA

We focus on the theme of displacement and its representations in young adult and children’s literature in this July’s My Take/Your Take. With the present day global and national focus on anti-immigration and children being kept is cages point towards the necessity of giving this theme attention in any or all forums that we as citizens have access to. The textset within this forum includes strong narratives that speak to the issue in various parts of the world, some as historical present and others as historical past that still seems relevant to today. The five books to be discussed each week are The Night Diary, The Bone Sparrow and Guantanamo Boy, Internment, Amal Unbound, and Saltiepie.

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Malala’s Magic Pencil and Free As a Bird

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The next couple of books for this final week focusing on books about Malala Yousafzai are Malala’s Magic Pencil and Free As a Bird. Malala’s Magic Pencil is written by Malala herself and published in 2017. Free As a Bird is more recent, published in 2018, and is written and illustrated by Lina Maslo, who lives in South Carolina.

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More Books about Malala Yousafzai

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

In week three, I explore further trends in books about Malala Yousafzai and issues that lie therein. For this post, I discuss Malala A Brave Girl from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter. This Chicago-based American writer has written extensively about international regions and issues, as well as the regions where Muslims reside, within the genres of fiction and nonfiction. Her famed stories include The Librarian of Basra set in Iraq and Nasreen’s Secret School set in Afghanistan. I also discuss Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya, a journalist turned author who is married to an Egyptian and travels widely.

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Malala Activist for Girls’ Education and For the Right to Learn

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Most of the books mentioned in the first week of this series on books about Malala Yousafzai were submitted for book awards and considered distinctly above and beyond the run on the mill books that frame the Malala rhetoric by at least the publishers. Each story has the same narrative with various distinctions and have varied illustration distinctions. Malala story’s attraction is undeniable in all of the texts. Her being shot and surviving gives credence to the story as the girl who lived to use her incident to further her cause.

Cover art for Malala, Activist for Girls Education is an illustration of Malala in a bright pink scarf holding a bouquet of flowers and books Continue reading

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Malala Yousafzai In Books for Children

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson

I Am Malala cover depicting Malala in a red floral scarf against a teal backgroundSince Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani heroine who propagates education for women, hit the world stage there has been a huge spotlight on her life and activities globally, especially captured and projected in the arena of children’s books. Her near-death experience at the hands of the Taliban sets her story apart in more ways than one. Her dramatic entry into the global narrative reinforces concerns of women’s oppression and lack of education in Muslim countries and takes it to whole new level. Continue reading

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Forced Journeys in Children’s Literature, Part II

By Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

Middle Eastern regions and Muslims have been unfailingly in the media and news. Children’s literature and Young Adult literature also tap into this trend and brings forward concerns faced by these regions, presently. Turmoil within the regions has become a predominant global concern since the refugee crises has brought the impact to Western shores, impacting their economy, balance of power, and in some cases, law and order. Most earlier books were written by people outside of the regions, thus, not true insiders to the cultures, raising concerns of authenticity. Commonly held trends as well as issues in literature about Muslims is that of migration, refugees, Muslim people at the center of strife and Muslim people as violent, blood thirsty terrorists. There is an issue when these assumptions, generalization, and stereotypes are taken as truths.

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