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Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
1. Describe Amina’s feelings about music. What keeps Amina from telling her teacher that she would like to sing a solo? What could Amina do to overcome her fear? Have you ever been afraid to do something you wanted to do? What happened?
2. Why does Soojin consider changing her name? Why do you think Amina is uncomfortable with the idea of Soojin changing her name? Have you ever wanted to change your own name?
3. Why do you think Emily decides to stop being friends with Julie and to start being friends with Soojin and Amina? Why doesn’t Amina trust her at first? How would you react if someone who had been mean to you in the past tried to become your friend?
4. What causes tension between Amina’s parents and her brother? How do they resolve their differences? Have you ever wanted to do something your parents did not want you to do? Have your parents ever required you to do something you did not want to do? How did you handle the situation?
5. How is Thaya Jaan related to Amina? How can you tell that Amina’s parents respect Thaya Jaan? What do they agree about? What do they disagree about?
6. Why is Amina initially unhappy with the group she is assigned to work with on her class Oregon Trail project? What is the best thing about working with a group? What is the hardest thing about working with a group? What does Amina learn from working with Bradley, Soojin, and Emily?
7. Describe what happens at Amina’s Sunday School. Do you attend any religious services or classes? If so, how is Amina’s experience similar to yours? How is it different?
8. Both Amina and Soojin have been teased because of the food they bring to school or the way their food smells. Why do you think people tease or bully kids who are different? If you were in Amina’s or Soojin’s position, how would you respond? If you encounter someone from a different cultural background, how should you respond to them?
9. Discuss the role that forgiveness plays in the novel. Who does Amina need to forgive? Who does she need to ask for forgiveness? Do you think it is more difficult to ask for forgiveness or to forgive someone else?
10. How does jealousy threaten Soojin and Amina’s friendship? What does Amina learn about Soojin, Emily, and herself as a result? Do you think Soojin is a good friend to Amina? Is Amina a good friend to Soojin?
11. In the novel, Amina is trusted with secrets. Do you think she’s right to keep Mustafa’s secret? Should she have kept Emily’s secret? Why is it sometimes hard to keep secrets? Are there ever secrets that you should not keep?
12. Amina’s parents and Thaya Jaan disagree about whether or not music is forbidden. In every family, people disagree about the way to raise children and about what types of behavior should be allowed. How does Amina navigate the conflicting viewpoints in her own family? Have you ever had to navigate a similar situation? If so, how did you handle it?
13. What is backbiting? Why does Amina feel guilty of backbiting? In your opinion, did she backbite Emily? Explain your answer.
14. Amina’s parents are concerned that Thaya Jaan will not be happy when he visits because, as they say, “You know there’s some bad feeling in this country toward Muslims, and all this negative talk in the news these days.” When Thaya Jaan is in America, what evidence of bad feelings toward Muslims does he witness? What good things about America and acts of kindness does he witness? What does he conclude about life in America?
15. What is vandalism? How did the description of the vandalism of Amina’s mosque make you? feel? How do you think you would feel if your school or place of worship was vandalized? Explain how this act of violence ends up bringing Amina’s community together.
16. The novel ends with a message of change. In literature, characters that change are called dynamic characters. Almost all the characters in Amina’s Voice are dynamic characters. Explain how each character changes.
Like so many writers, I grew up with my nose in a book. My mother believed children should be seen reading and not heard whining about boredom, and she regularly took us to the Rockville Public Library with grocery bags to fill with books. Along with grabbing new titles each visit, I often chose the same ones over and over again. And I reread treasured personal copies of my favorites until they fell apart.
The books I connected with as a child left a bigger impression on me than almost anything I come across today. I still think of the characters, stories, and random facts that I absorbed years ago. That’s why I love writing for kids—in the hopes that they’ll pick up something I write more than once, and let it become part of who they are.
Here are a few details about me: I’m a Pakistani-American Muslim who was born and raised in Maryland, and enjoy sharing and writing about my culture and religion. I’ve written about a bunch of other topics, from spies to space travel, that take me out of my reality and on adventures. I’ve had a few adventures of my own, managed to get to some pretty fantastic places on our planet, and met incredible people along the way. I’m slightly obsessed with Spain, ceramic tiles and pottery, food, flamenco, and good coffee. When I’m not cooking up a story, I’m often actually cooking food or baking treats for my family or friends. I also spent a good chunk of my life writing and editing for international organizations that work to improve the health of people around the world.