I’m a big fan of books featuring BIPOC leads in everyday situations, but when the quality of the product is subpar, I truly am conflicted if I should mention the book, or just tuck it away and pretend I never read it. I’ve had this book tucked away for a while now, but I am pulling it out to bring attention to the importance of editors, proofers and revising. The bar has been raised, Islamic fiction is becoming more and more mainstream. The quality of many self published books rival and exceed traditionally published options, that to be putting out content that contains grammar errors (missing words, punctuation, random line breaks), spelling errors, voice and point of view inconsistencies, illustration errors, and content mishaps in a 26 page picture book, is not acceptable. I feel like you are hurting the goal of representation and reflection, more than boosting it, when it is not well done. I know that is harsh, but sadly minorities always have to do things better, it isn’t right, but it is the way it is. You can argue my opinion that the story is too wordy or text heavy, but the technical components and final package in a $12 book, really need to be resolved. The overall concept of the story is lovely: the Islamic details, the reminders about the sunnahs of Jummah, the little girl being excited to wear her favorite scarf and see a friend at the masjid, it really had a lot of potential.
Samira greets the reader with As Salaamu Alaikum, as the fourth wall is breached and introduces herself as being a Muslim. She then explains what being a Muslim is and tells the reader it is Jummah. She asks her Ummi why we go to the masjid on Friday, before chiming in with all the information she in fact does know about Jummah.
The next page details wudu as she prepares to go to the Masjid. She then explains hijab as she tries to find her favorite green khimar with polka dots. The words hijab, scarf and khimar are used interchangeable, causing a bit of confusion, She explains that hijab is required by Allah swt to guard your chastity and that He also requires us to wear a khimar to the masjid. I wish it would have clarified that we have to be covered when we pray, not necessarily just going to the masjid as she is a child, and many masjids are more than just places to pray, often having community halls and gyms.
As the story continues she cannot find her favorite khimar no matter where she looks. Ummi tries to give her some places to check, but in typical mom fashion, Samira can’t find it anywhere, and mom can find it immediately. Samira shares some information about wearing your best clothes and they are off to the masjid not wanting to be late and hoping to get to the masjid first as the angels keep a record. She finds her friend, and settles in to listen to the khutbah (misspelled as “Iman’s lecture” in the book).
The conclusion of the book says “that even though Samira couldn’t find her favorite khimar, she was happy to take a trip to the masjid…”. But she did find her favorite khimar? And on the very last page she is wearing the same shirts as she was at the masjid, but the polka dots have vanished from her green scarf?
I’m hoping the author, illustrator, and publisher will clean up the book and someday republish it, we need these voices and images.