The Depiction of Muslims

In Western Literture

The need for mirrors and windows

According to the Pew Research Center in 2015 there were 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, and this count is projected to double by 2050.

This population is underrepresented in the existing children's literature, making it:
  • difficult for non-Muslim children to get a proper glimpse of being a Muslim
  • a challenge for Muslim American children to find themselves represented in a book
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"A lack of Muslim American representation in school-level literature today remains a deplorable reality, silencing children identifying as Muslim American and “othering” them in relation to their classmates and friends." Laila Alawa

Books to consider adding to the class library

Book 1

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors Writtten by Hena Khan and Illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, California, 2012; 32 pages; ISBN 978-0-8118-7905-7
  • In this picture book a young Muslim girl takes readers through the colors and traditions of Islam. For example, blue is the hijab that her mother likes to wear. This book employs beautiful illustrations to provide the reader with a basic understanding and admiration of Islam.

Book 2

One Green Apple Written by Eve Bunting and Illustrated by Ted Lewin. Clarion Books, New York, 2006; 32 pages; ISBN 978-0-618-43477-0
  • Farah is a new student in a new country. On her second day of school she goes with her classmates on a field trip to an orchard. She does not speak English and she feels lonely and different. The children all pick apples to put in the juicer; Farah is the only one who picks a green apple. The children try to stop her from adding her apple in but it's too late. Then they all get a sample and realize that the cider taste delicious even with Farah's different apple. Farah leaves the orchard with new friends.

Book 3

Nadia's Hands Written by Karen English and Illustrated by Jonathan Weiner. Boyds Mills Press, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 1999; 32 pages; ISBN 978-1-59078-784-7
  • Nadia is chosen to be her aunt's flower girl at her wedding. Nadia is nervous but reassured when her aunt tells her she will do a good job. Her peace about the situation is short lived when her aunt tells her that she will be having mehndi painted on her hands. Nadia is scared about going to school on Monday with her hands painted. In the end, Nadia feels proud of her hands and looks forward to showing them to her classmates.

Book 4

Big Red Lollipop Written by Rukhsana Khan and Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Penquin Group, New York, 2010; 40 pages; ISBN 978-0-670-06287-4
  • Rubina is invited to her first birthday party. But her mom doesn't know what a birthday party is and makes Rubina take her little sister, Sana. Sana wants to win all the games and cries a lot at the party. When they get home Sana eats the prized party favor - big red lollipop. Rubina is furious. To make matters worse, Rubina is not invited to another party for a long time. In the end, Sana gets invited to a birthday party and her mom insists that she take the youngest sister with her. However, Rubina steps in and saves Sana from the embarrassment. When Sana returns home, she gives Rubina her lollipop!

Classroom Ideas

Additional titles Explored

Ramadan and Family

Night of the Moon Written by Hena Khan and Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco, California, 2008; 32 pages; ISBN 978-0-8118-6062-8

Ramadan
by Written by Suhaib Hamid Ghazi and Illustrated by Omar Rayyan. Holiday House, New York, 1996; 32 pages; ISBN 0-8234-1254-7

Moon Watchers Shirin's Ramadan Miracle Written by Reza Jalali and Illustrated by Anne Sibley O'Brien. Tilbury House Publishers, Gardiner, Maine, 2010; 32 pages; ISBN 978-0-88448-321-2

Lailah's Lunchbox A Ramadan Story Written by Reem Faruqi and Illustrated by Lea Lyon. Tilbury House Publishers, Thomaston, Maine, 2015; 32 pages; ISBN 978-0-88448-431-8

The Best Eid Ever Written by Asma Mobin-Uddin and Illustrated by Laura Jacobsen. Boyds Mill Press, Inc., Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2007; 32 pages; ISBN 978-1-59078-431-0

Rashad's Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr Written by Lisa Bullard and Illustrated by Holli Conger. Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., Minneapolis, MN, 2012; 24 pages; ISBN 978-0-7613-8583-7

Nabeel's New Pants An Eid Tale Retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams and Illustrated by Proiti Roy. Tulika Publishers, Chennai, India, 2007; 24 pages; ISBN 978-0-7614-5629-2

Islam History

The Genius of Islam How Muslims Made the Modern World Written by Bryn Barnard. Random House Children's Books, New York, 2011; 40 pages; ISBN 978-0-375-84072-2

Muslim Hadith

The Camel in the Sun Written by Griffin Ondaatje by Linda Wolfsgruber. Groundwood Books, Berkeley, CA, 2013; 32 pages; ISBN 978-1-55498-381-0

Adventure

Jannah Jewels The Treasures of Timbuktu Book 1 Written by Umm Nura and Illustrated by Nayzak Al-Hilali. Gentle Breeze Books, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, 2010; 86 pages; ISBN 978-0-9867208-0-2

Customs and Family
Deep in the Sahara Written by Kelly Cunnane and Illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Schwartz &

Wade Books, New York, 2013; 40 pages; ISBN 978-0-375-87034-7
"It was pretty Horrendous!!" Discussing Muslim Children's Literature - Rukhsana Khan
Rukhsana Khan's article and booklist

"If the children of second- and third-generation Muslims are to feel at home in the mosaic of North American culture, they need to see themselves and their values represented positively in literature." Rukhsana Khan

Resources

Alawa, L. (2014, May 1). Representing The Muslim American Experience. Retrieved from

http://www.slj.com/2014/05/diversity/why-we-need-muslim-american-kidlit/#_


Khan, R. (2006, September 1). Muslims in Children’s Books Up for Discussion. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2006/09/opinion/muslims-in-childrens-books/

Koss, M. D. (2015). Diversity in Contemporary Picturebooks: A Content Analysis. Journal of Children's Literature, 41, 32-42.

Mohamed, B. (2016, January 6). A New Estimate of the U.S. Muslim Population. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/06/a-new-estimate-of-the-u-s-muslim-population/


Marston, E. (2004). The Arab/Muslim World: How It Looks in Books for American Children. Retrieved from https://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/ojs/index.php/tlg/article/view/178/177


Torres, H. J. (2015). On the Margins: The Depiction of Muslims in Young Children’s Picturebooks. Children's Literature in Education, 1-18.

Susie Long