Tag Archives: crushes

Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

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Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond

hungry hearts

Occasionally I get asked about short story and/or essay from a collection that a college or high school student is hoping to share with a class that doesn’t take long to read, but shows Islamic representation.  And I never have a suggestion.  The middle grade collection Once Upon an Eid is amazing, but for younger readers.  When I learned about this collection that features two known Muslim authors, Karuna Riazi (The Gauntlet series) and S.K. Ali (Saints and Misfits, Love from A to Z), and involves food, I thought to take a look and see if I might finally have a suggestion.  Sadly, no.  None of the 13 stories wowed me, or really impressed.  A few I started then skipped, and none were really memorable.  The premise is unique: all the stories take place in the same neighborhood, feature food, and crossover characters, but some are love stories, others redemption, some have super heroes, others murder and gang violence, some really keep the food central, and others just mention it as being present.  There is familial love, romantic straight, lesbian, and trans love, there is friendship and food from many cultures served up to varying effects.  I admittedly read few short story collections, but even with that taken in to consideration, I think skipping this 353 page YA/Teen book is probably the best option.

SYNOPSIS:

I’ll only summarize the two Muslim authored stories.  A few of the others are culturally Indian, but they eat pork, so I’m assuming they are not Muslim, and the Persian one by Sara Farizan features alcohol and a lesbian romance, so since in a past book of hers I noted that I didn’t know if she or her characters identify as Muslim, I will skip reviewing hers as well.

Hearts a’ la Carte by Karuna Riazi:   Munira works at her families food cart, King of Kuisine and serves up Egyptian food to the people on Hungry Heart Row.  When a guy falls from the sky, she finds her self also falling hard for Hasan, as he regularly starts coming to eat and visit, but when it is revealed that he is a super hero (the Comet) and the reason her families cart is destroyed, Munira is not willing to pursue things further.

A Bountiful Film by S.K. Ali: Hania and her family have recently moved to Hungry Heart Row, where her father grew up and grandma Valimma lives.  Irritated that she had to leave her school, her job at Daily Harvest and friends behind, Hania is hoping to lose herself in putting together her film for the upcoming competition and beating her long time rival Gabrielle Rose.  With no clear idea of what her film should be about she starts with interviewing Valimma and her friends, which turns up a bit of an unsolved mystery involving a missing boy that keeps showing up on the security footage from local businesses.  Hania decides to pursue it, but finds herself being watched, and filmed in the process.

WHY I LIKE IT:

I like that the stories are interconnected, I don’t know that it works, but I like the idea of it.  As for the two Muslim authored stories, I like that Islam and culture are included slightly, but that the story is much more than that, and the characters have more pressing issues to figure out.  I wish in both of these two stories, food was more fleshed out.  They seemed to be lacking the magical food premise that many other stories in the collection had.

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FLAGS:

See above paragraph for some collection flags.  Riazi’s story has crushes and a budding romance, but nothing overtly “haram.” Ali’s story is clean.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I wouldn’t probably even shelve the book in our Islamic school library, it doesn’t offer much in my opinion.

Girls Who Code by Stacia Deutsch and Michelle Schusterman

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Girls Who Code by Stacia Deutsch and Michelle Schusterman

I sadly think that it is safe to say that whenever you see a book that features a cast of characters meant to include multiple minority groups, certain representation is going to read more generic and formulaic than others.  Translation: just because you see a hijabi on the cover, do not rush out to obtain, purchase, and read the entire series.  Chances are if a scarf wearing Muslim is being featured, the details will be simplistic, the rep mediocre, and the OWN voice emotion lacking.  Also know, that other minority groups will have similarly been included for their surface level representation and not necessarily for any real depth.  This includes the boxes to be checked for Black, Hispanic, Asian, and LGBTQ+ storylines, characters, and/or side references.  This is a sweeping generalization, and inshaAllah when I am proven wrong, I will happily point those books out too.  This series hopes to appeal to middle grade female readers (AR 4.0-4.6) with an emphasis on coding, but not so much on how it is done or how they learn it, but how it helps them in their other passions and dramas.  I read books two and four, since the Muslim character is not introduced until book two and I wanted to see how she is developed as the series advances.  Each book is told from a different girl’s perspective so it is assumed that book five, could be Leila’s, but honestly with the focus on crushes, dances, and relationships, I won’t be sticking around to find out.

SYNOPSIS:

BOOK 2: TEAM BFF: RACE TO THE FINISH! is told from Sophia’s perspective.  She is hispanic, has lots of little sisters, loves sports and has a lot of responsibility.  The original four girls reach out to Leila, a new girl from Pakistan to join their coding team and even end up naming their robot Zahira.  When Soph is forced to take care of her siblings instead of go to the hackathon, she will have to learn to ask for help and lean on others when she can’t do everything herself.  It also means she will have to take charge with the upcoming dance and ask Sammy out herself.

BOOK 4: SPOTLIGHT ON CODING CLUB:  The school is doing a new virtual format for the talent show and that means that the coding club has to design a website, an app, and collect all the data.  They don’t have much time, and with everyone’s time stretched thin with other obligations, Erin keeps volunteering to do more.  Her hope is that if she is so busy she can’t think, her anxiety won’t flare up  and she won’t stress too much about her dad who is deployed on a secret mission.  When their teacher announces that she is leaving, the group seems to be falling apart as well, and something will have to give.

WHY I LIKE IT:

The first two books are written by one author, and then three is written by someone else, as is book four.  The writing quality of book four is much better, and the insight in to mental illness, divorced parents, a parent actively deployed, and being stretched too thin, will resonate a lot stronger with readers, than the more whiney presentation of the second book.  Each book seems to also present with a new crush storyline: in the second book it is Sophia recognizing changing feelings for a friend, and in book four it is a lesbian crush that has the side characters angsty.  I wish more about the girls as individuals was stressed rather than having them all be defined by their hundreds of hobbies and extracurriculars.  I was exhausted just imagining all the places they have to be in a week and the frantic pace they must keep to ensure they get there. I get that the demographic is probably giggly over crushes, but honestly they seem so forced and unnecessary in books that already have a lot of moving parts.

FLAGS:

Lying, crushes (gay and straight), anxiety triggers, stress.

TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I don’t know that I would even shelve these in an Islamic School, the idea is good, the execution not so much.