Tag Archives: problematic

Crescent Moon Friends by Wadia Samadi & Mo Duffy Cobb illustrated by Lisa Lypowy

Crescent Moon Friends by Wadia Samadi & Mo Duffy Cobb illustrated by Lisa Lypowy


This 32 page book does not read like a new release, it looks like something you would have found in the early 2000s when the recent war in Afghanistan started and books about refugees from the region were popping up.  Admittedly back then, I probably would have been more forgiving that the smiling illustrations showed Islam in action and two characters from different cultures coming together through dialogue, respect, acceptance, and fun, but for reasons I’ll articulate, this book reads very superficial, dismissive and erroneous at times.  I am not Canadian or Afghani, I am a neighbor to both as a Pakistani American, and the book is OWN voice, so if I am just being overly picky, or sensitive, and am wrong, I am happy to acknowledge it, but before you push back, please read the entire review.

The description of the book says:

Crescent Moon Friends introduces the reader to two best friends Amelia and Aisha. While the pair is from Canada and Afghanistan, the girls reconcile their differences through exploration of the values they share. This book initiates a family conversation about Islam, explores tradition and language, and brings the girls closer together as a result. It is our hope that the book will be used as a teaching tool to help children understand the cultural backgrounds of others, and to create a warm environment for refugees resettling in Atlantic Canada from the Middle East.

This picture book is for both non- Muslims who are living in the West, and Muslims who are living outside their home countries. The focus of the book is on tradition, not religion, it also captures the significance of Islam. This is a valuable title for library and classroom use.

So first of all, I feel like the foundation of the book is othering Islam in making it seem that this book is an introduction of Islam to non Muslim with the premise being that Islam is what, a foreign religion? Numerous Canadians are both Afghani and Muslim in 2022, before I even began the book I was already fearing the framing.  Then it identifies Afghanistan as the Middle East, which just made me really question the accuracy.  Somehow after that first paragraph, the book then tries to say that the book is not about religion, but traditions.  While part of me appreciates that distinction, the second part of the sentence saying that it wants to capture the significance of Islam really shows the poor focus of the book.

Let me pause here though and answer a question I’m sure many of you are wondering, “why review a book that is not well written, and is not widely promoted or known about.” The answer is simple, a book such as this may not sell in big numbers and be regularly seen online and in stores, but they often do find their way into libraries and classrooms.  They are often shelved to fill “diversity” or “inclusion” quotas and thus their messaging does often reach our children.  I also highlight books like this, not just to pick on this particular book, but to show that OWN voices doesn’t make something automatically correct.  If this is the author’s own experience or is a memoir, there is some leeway, but saying that Afghanistan is in the Middle East or that Salam is Dari, not Arabic, or that it is “naan tandori” instead of “tandoori naan,” just makes the book seem inauthentic.  Often publishers, editors, agents perhaps don’t want to push back and appear uncultured or racist, so they don’t question details, is the only thing I can think of as to why this trend continues to perpetuate.  Which is also why the importance of having a piece sensitivity read cannot be overlooked, even when the author is writing about their own religion or culture. Yes, I too am only one person saying I have issues, but beta and sensitivity readers such as @muslimbookreviewers are four people and we discuss based on what we know and between the four of us there are a lot of singular specialties and a lot of  overlapping expertise that really help books get it right. Sorry for my rant, back to the book at hand…

The book starts with the white Canadian girl camping with her family and wondering what the upcoming school year will bring.  The text says. “she loved to look at the crescent moon.”  Already the writing is clearly weak, who loves to look at a particular phase of the moon, does she not like the waxing gibbous or whole moon? The next spread introduces Aisha, she is standing in the foreground with a mosque behind her and the text says she loves the moon too.  “There was a crescent moon on top of the mosque where her family went to pray.” Aisha has her hair loosely covered, and immediately we are connecting Aisha to her faith and to Amelia through their love of the crescent moon.  Interestingly, Aisha who would presumably love the crescent as it symbols holidays and month changes in the lunar calendar is presented as liking the moon because of it decoration aesthetic. It is where her family went to pray, sure it reminds her of home, but chances are she didn’t often go to the masjid as culturally most women don’t, so I’m not sure that this spread really has any accuracy or value, it just sounds good…if that.

The next spread is the first day of 6th grade with the teacher introducing a new friend to the class.  If it is the first day of school, aren’t they all new to the class? Aisha recalls that she left Afghanistan because there was a war in her country and school wasn’t safe, if she is twelve or thirteen, I’m not sure what caused the change in real life for the war timeline being referenced.  On a more relatable note it mentions that she missed swinging in her grandfather’s garden with cousins as well.

The next page showing the girls being silly with pencils to look like a bunny and walrus is sweet.  It shows language isn’t necessary, that silliness is universal and it is cute.  The girls then show how they share things unique to their culture with one another.  Aisha teaches her how to say Salam, hello in Dari, how to dance the Attan, about Eid, the most important Muslim holiday, and about a game with stones called anjaaq panjaaq.  But this is wrong, Salam is Arabic, Eid is Arabic for festival or holiday so what Eid is the book referring to? Also why not tell how to play the game, or how to do the dance or how Eid is celebrated? If the book is to build cultural (or religious) bridges, thus far I’ve only learned how to stick pencils in my mouth to look like a walrus or behind my head to look like a rabbit.

It is then Amelia’s turn to share Canadian culture and the book picks: ghosts, goblins, Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.  I find this a bit offensive on Canadians’ behalf, really their holidays are what make them who they are?  Later we will learn that Amelia is not religious, yet the symbols for religious holidays of Easter and Christmas are what are being presented.  Additionally, the holidays mentioned are not even unique to Canada: Christmas, Halloween, and Easter, are the same in America at the very least.

The next spread shows their moms becoming friends and the girls playing in Aisha’s mom’s scarves, hijabs, shoes and make-up.  I find the joy sweet, but I wonder if the book as stated in the details by the author/publisher is to help refugees- is this a bit misleading- that they are settled and have an abundance of clothing accurate?  Often refugees need assistance, will a book like this send the wrong message about helping those fleeing war get established, by not just avoiding talking about need, but celebrating surplus?

Aisha is then shown helping Amelia with math and when Aisha needs help with a Halloween costume, Amelia is there.  The book really is doubling down on the importance of Halloween to Canadian culture, which again feels off.  But also most Muslims don’t celebrate pagan holidays, so I’m not sure I like the positioning that it is cultural to celebrate and that to be Canadian one must engage in the rituals.  Whether you see it as pagan or just assimilation, either way it doesn’t sit right for a book aimed at finding common ground between diverse individuals.  Math is neutral and universal, why not have Amelia help Aisha with something also less controversial?


The next spread shows Aisha missing Afghanistan, and Amelia being a supportive friend and wanting to visit Afghanistan too.  Unfortunately, once again the weak writing has her sounding like an adult missing the laughter in the air and hope and flowers, not a kid talking.  When Amelia joins in, naan tandori is mentioned, which is backward, if it is the same as in Urdu it should be tandoori naan.  She also wishes they could wear colorful Afghani clothes and dance the Attan, which are two acts not limited to Afghanistan.  They can put on traditionally clothing and dance in Canada.

The story then takes a huge pivot and shows Aisha and her mom praying with the very vague text of her mom “described her way of life, Islam as the peace in her heart, and said turning to Allah in prayer would keep Aisha happy.”  The text seems misplaced and the messaging completely pointless, why not frame it as what Aisha believes or what her faith teaches her? It almost comes across as her mom forcing the belief on her and this being the first Aisha has heard about it.  The next page is set up the same, but shows Amelia’s faith to be kindness and compassion while they sit in nature.  I think the intent was to be positive, but when you have two people representing entire populations, all sorts of stereotypes come in to play that either have to be so general as to be accurate or more specific to the two characters at hand.  In this case I feel the takeaway is that holidays define Canadians, even religious holidays, but they are fine to participate in because Amelia is not part of organized religion.

Thus the next spread of Aisha’s family celebrating Christmas with Amelia makes sense in the story, but I find alarming because it normalizes abandoning your own religious convictions and adopting another faiths in order to fit in and assimilate.  Imagine a teacher reading this book to a first grade class and little Muslim children who demand that Christmas and Easter stay out of public schools are hearing messaging normalizing the holidays for people of all faiths.  Imagine a recent immigrant or refugee further feeling pressured to adopt these practices because they want to be seen as “good citizens” or be accepted by the larger community.  The contrast of Aisha’s family celebrating Christmas is Amelia helping make star and moon shaped cookies for Eid.

The story comes back to the girls love of the moon, one as a dreamer, the other as a scientist.  It tells of other firsts Aisha experiences and Amelia learning about Aisha and her faith.  I’m not sure what a genie lamp has to do with Islam, but it is in the illustration with a hamsa hand, a book, a tasbih, and a crescent with a minaret coming out.

Aisha then starts to wear hijab and Amelia learns how to wear one too. No details about what or why hijab is worn or given, and in the illustrations it doesn’t completely cover anyone’s hair. The girls ski together and drink hot chocolate and living in Canada allows Aisha “to be the girl she was meant to be.”  I’m not sure what that means, but that seems to be the resolution to the book before it circle backs to the mom and concludes.

I think on the very surface the book is a nice idea, but the conflation of what it means to be Canadian with observance of holidays and the lacking details of what it means to be Muslim Afghani make the book miss so much and ultimately do more harm than good if shared.

You Truly Assummed by Laila Sabreen

You Truly Assummed by Laila Sabreen

We need more diverse books, especially within Islamic rep stories.  So I was so excited to receive an arc of this 352 page YA/Teen Black Muslim authored and featured OWN voice story.  I was prepared for rawness and grit and insight and all the feels.  Sadly to say, it is not that.  It is surface level plot points that are unexplored, disjointed, emotionless, and overshadowed by poor writing, contradictory details, and errors. Admittedly I saw an early copy and there is hope that the spelling errors, continuity mistakes and numerous contradictions can be fixed, but I highly doubt the narrative, character arcs, and holes, will or can be rewritten.  It is such a shame, because every time I was ready to put the book aside and claim I could not finish it, a powerful beautiful paragraph or sentence would pull me in and give me hope that the book would turn around and be what its own blurb claimed the book set out to do: “shatter assumptions” and “share truth.” In full disclosure, this book centers the intersection of being Black and Muslim, an experience I do not share firsthand nor claim to know in all of its multitudes and complexities.


Sabriya, Zakat, Farah: three Black female Muslim 17-year-olds in different parts of America, with different passions, different life experiences, and different dreams, take one alternating chapter at a time to tell their stories with occasional blog posts scattered between.  A terrorist attack in the in the D.C. metro, lots of serendipitous technology events, and a need to find community and the girls come together to create a blog that gathers followers and haters alike in the summer before their senior year.

Sabriya “Bri” is a ballet dance, and often one of two black ballerinas in class.  The book opens with her preparing for the summer intensive audition process when news of the nearby metro attack makes time stand still.  Her mom cannot be reached, and multiple people are killed and many more injured.  Bri and her younger sister Nuri identify like their father, as Muslim, but their mother is not.  It doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, except in that Bri’s mother often cannot relate to experiences her daughter is going through.  Bri asks Allah swt to keep her mom safe, but throughout the entirety of the book it does not mention her praying salat or actively showing she is Muslim aside from wearing an Allah swt necklace and her sorting through her desire to prove to others she is a Muslim versus eventually being content to be enough for her own self.  She does at one point refuse to cook bacon, but she does have a love interest, and Islam reads more of a label to her, than a practiced way of life.  Bri journals as a way to let off steam, and her younger sister Nuri encourages her to move to an app to blog.  Reluctantly Bri agrees, after being reassured that she can keep it private, she names her journal/blog ‘You Truly Assumed’ and accidentally sets it to public.

With the city reeling, the family commits to volunteering every day to provide food to those directly affected.  Bri is placed in a group with her father’s new boss and Hayat, a Muslim boy that she thought was a popular showoff, but is quickly falling for.  The micro aggressions from her father’s boss, who is also the volunteer group leader elevate, and the more she learns about him and his connection with an alt right group, the more she writes about in her journal.  By the time she realizes that it has all gone public, she decides based on the comments that she should keep it up, recruit more contributors, and get someone on board that is tech savvy.

Farah Rose lives in California with her mom.  Even though she knows who her father is, she has never had a relationship with him.  When her mom decides that this summer she should go to Boston to meet him and get away from the tensions following the DC attacks, she reluctantly agrees.  With a passion for tech, Tommy, her father persuades her by registering her for an intro computer science college course and a chance to meet her siblings.  Farah is nervous to leave her boyfriend, and worries about being a summer babysitter, but out of love to her mother, agrees to go.  When she learns about the blog, she joins to help with the tech side.

Once in Boston she struggles to connect with her father and his wife, but is immediately drawn to the children.  Her story provides some insight into the concept of privilege within black communities.  Her father and his family are not Muslim, nor did they seem to know that she was. Presumably the only reason it even comes up is when they serve bacon at breakfast and she mentions she is Muslim and a pescaterian  Farah meets a lesbian Muslim girl in her college class and learns that there has a been a hate crime and taken the life of her new friend’s friend.  Farah offers to help with the vigil and her commitment to the blog increases as hate crimes, and Islamophobes seem to be on the rise.

Zakat “Kat” seems to present the more “conservative” Muslim.  She lives in an idyllic town and attends an all girls Islamic school.  There is also an all boys Islamic school and they are big rivals of the public high school.  Kat loves art and often takes art classes in the Islamic school with music pumping through the halls, unfortunately her parents don’t want her majoring in art at school.  They were the victims of predatory college loans and want her to be more pragmatic in her chose of school and direction of study.  She is more sheltered and even has to go behind her parents’ backs to be a part of You Truly Assumed.  She shares her sketches and comics and art work and loves knowing that people are connecting with her work and messages.

When her quaint town becomes the victim of hate crimes, she has to decide if she is going to step up and use her voice, or blend in as she has always done.  Zakat prays regularly, often at the gender neutral mosque behind a female identifying imam, wears hijab, and deals with jealousy as her best friend becomes friends with a girl who years earlier bullied Kat.

The three girls’ stories intertwine as they become friends, share their own personal lives with one another, and thus the reader, and create a space to be seen and heard through the blog.


The book honestly reads sloppy.  I don’t know why it seems the growing trend is to not properly edit these Islamic OWN voice YA novels, but this is another book that indicates a troubling trend.  I love that these voices are emerging, but it sadly feels that editors are nervous or afraid to question things and demand better.  The book is so much telling and so little showing.  I don’t want to be told that the blog posts are powerful, and moving, I want to read them and feel moved.  I don’t want to read that you had to understand that you had to stop proving your religiosity to others and just live for yourself, I want to see the incidents and reflection that brought on that growth. I don’t want to be told that you are becoming friends with the other two bloggers, I want to see that they understand you when no one else does.  The whole premise of the book is to connect with the reader, but the emotion isn’t in the pages, so there is nothing to connect with unfortunately.  Saying there is a terrorist attack, saying that hate crimes are occurring, does not bring forth an investment to the story if details, context, and cathartic releases are not also included.

There are some basics errors.  Wudu is described in the wrong order, Zakat talks of living in Georgia in a fictitious town, but the landmarks and colleges are all accurate until she mentions looking out over Lake Erie.  I Google mapped it, there is no Lake Erie in Georgia (just the Great Lakes one on the Canada US border), it is only mentioned once, so presumably an oversight, not a fictitious landmark.  There are some spelling errors and grammar errors as extra words enter a few sentences (3%), dinner replace the word diner.  At one point it mentions the girls meeting on a Zoom call, and then the next line refers to it as a Skype call (54%).  The plushness of the Georgia mosque is often commented on, but they have to put down their prayer rugs to pray, this is pre covid, so a little off.

The book contradicts itself at 11% saying that they can drive to North Carolina or New York for auditions, while the rest of the chapter is convincing Bri to volunteer because they cannot. One of the reasons Farah left California was because of the tensions, but Boston is closer to the place of the attacks and also a large diverse bustling city.  When Farah is wanting to talk to Tommy and his wife about the vigil, she walks in to a room and comments on who is there, in the next line, it mentions that it isn’t a good time to have the conversation since Jess is not there.  Jess was just mentioned as being there and the conversation does end up taking place (84%).  When Bri has a blow up with her dad’s boss, Hayat is worried that she hasn’t been delivering meals all week as a result, later in the chapter it mentions that the conversation happened yesterday (77%).   When Bri introduces her friend to Hayat she doesn’t mention that the two girls know his little sister very well, and it seemed unnecessarily awkward.  Zakat stares off in to space and imagines a sketch and remarks that she has never shared a sketch before and it is something she wants to explore.  This is 81% of the way in to the book, she has been sharing her sketches on the blog since she joined.

In terms of Islamic representation, Zakat’s mosque has one entrance and doesn’t divide based on gender, there is a female imam, the steps of wudu are in the wrong order, the girls all seem to focus on their “Islamic” necklaces or rings as if they are such an integral part of the religion.  The girls never pause or hesitate to have boyfriends, kiss them, bring them around their Muslim family.  Even Zakat who reads really naive and young and goes to an all girls Islamic school decides that a logical event is to have a mixed gender party with music and none of the parents have an issue.  It is even held in a Muslim girl’s basement. There are very few salams or mashaAllahs or inshaAllahs, or bismillahs in the book.  There is music, dancing and dating.  Not naive to say that Muslims don’t participate in all these activities, but to not offer any pause, reflection, or clarification, in a book trying to show the life of some one who identifies as Muslim is a little puzzling.  At the beginning it mentions that Black Muslims are “othered” in Islamic gatherings, and I really wish this thread would have been a larger part of the book.  To see where the larger community is racist and lacking, to see where the engagements occur and where they fall short is a very unique lived experience that the book seemed to tease, but ultimately abandoned completely.

Plot points were not fully developed, a book of secrets was not built up or stressed and then became a huge issue without sufficient understanding as to why offered.  The hate crime in Boston that took the life of a young black Muslim girl was also not given enough weight in the story, or how she helped organize the galvanizing vigil.  The blog aspect was just not believable, so much happening by happenstance and then the material not being shown.  Show us the comics, the sketches, the passages.  Let us read the comments and show us your texts back and forth to see your friendship growing.  I loved the parts about Bri and her dad’s boss, about Farah’s father’s family and her interacting, the parts that mentioned Juneteenth and bean pie.  I wanted more immersion in to these characters lives.  To know their back stories and their struggles.  I wanted to feel like I was seeing something that for too long has not been given the space to be authentic and real, but ultimately I finished the book just glad it was over and I no longer needed to exhaust myself trying to imagine the book that it could have been.


Domestic terrorism, hate crimes, death.  Relationships mentioned, straight and queer.  Transgendered and ungendered masjids, female imams.  Boyfriends both Muslim and non Muslim.  Mixed parties, dancing, music, art with faces, lying, cursing.


I don’t think there is enough content to discuss in a book club setting, neither to relate to nor open ones’ eyes to.  I would like to discuss the book if any one has read it, if I am simply so ignorant of the Black Muslim female experience that I don’t get the book, I am happy to learn and listen and change, inshaAllah.