I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this book. Books by politicians are always suspect, by a politician currently in office- more so, and a book written about one’s self can be a little self promoting to say the least, but when I saw my library had it, I put it on hold and thought to give it a shot. Surprisingly, the book is really cute. It is framed as her son (one of the contributors) telling his mom’s story, it owns that while yes she was one of the First Muslim Congresswomen, there were a lot of people before her that ran and paved the way. What really shocked me was the amount of Islam in the book: Salat-al-Istikharha, actively learning about Islam not just as culture, there is an Ayat from the Quran, etc.. The book says for ages 4-8 and for the amount of text on the pages, there is no way a preschooler will sit through this. I can see this book, however, being used in an elementary classroom to teach about the American political system, and inspiring kids that they can make a difference, that they can rise to positions of leadership without compromising who they are, and that no matter their background, and that they can be successful in following their dreams. I don’t think Congresswoman Tlaib should be put on a pedal stool for some of the policies she has supported or bills endorsed, but I think even if you don’t support her politically, her story and her accomplishments do show possibilities for minorities to reach the highest levels of government. The fact that she is a Palestinian Muslim Women and has found success in the context of American government as told from a child’s perspective, really surprised and impressed me, and I can see it being a worthwhile story to share with young students.
The book starts with two boys on the steps of the capitol, Adam and Yousif wondering if the president is their mom’s boss, and mom, saying that no, the 700,000 people in the district she represents are. The book then pulls back and Adam starts to tell the story of him and his brother going to work with their mom, Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib the representative from Michigan.
Before she was elected their yama and yaba immigrated from the West Bank to America, where Rashida was born. Eventually there would be 14 kids born and Rashida would choreograph dances, basketball games, and seek privacy to dance like a pop star, or chase after the bookmobile.
Comments toward her well-spoken mother to learn English, embarrassment at the smell of the factory polluted environment, and an offer by a high school teacher to join the debate team, helped pave the way for Rashida to find her voice and make changes.
Rashida was the first in her family to graduate high school and from there she went to college and then law school. She also started to learn more about Islam and the reasons behind her family’s traditions. Her favorite passage from the Quran became, “with hardship comes ease.”
She started working with an elected official from the Michigan House of Representatives and started a family. When a seat became vacant she was encouraged to run. No Muslim had ever been elected to the Michigan House and even her own yaba didn’t think people would vote for an Arab, so she prayed Salat al-Istikhara and did a lot of thinking.
The book shows what she wanted to accomplish and how she went door-to-door and found both success and hardship meeting with the people. Ultimately though, she won the seat and held it for many years. When Adam was 12 she decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, and he and his brother joined in to help knock on doors.
She won, and was one of two Muslim women to be elected that year. Adam and Yousif dabbed in celebration at the inauguration as their mom was sworn in in her Palestinian thobe. On her first day, however, there were threats, and Adam though they should hide the fact that they were Muslims. Their mom told them it is important to be their authentic selves, “that sometimes it takes many to run for there to be a first.”
The book concludes with a glossary, an infographic of the branches of government. Can be purchased here.