Plaza Voices: Safe Haven

Our regular contributor Naghem S. writes:

When I was in middle school, libraries were my safe haven, and books took me to worlds unknown. I would soak up book after book, anything to escape my reality. Even now, whenever I feel the world caving in and the shackles of stress holding me down, I escape into a book. 

I am picky when it comes to books. I love crime novels and I find great joy in trying to solve the mystery before I reach the end of the story. (I usually cheat and read the last chapter.) I also love picture books with beautiful, colorful scenes that illuminate the author’s story. I truly believe that even as I grow older, I will still prefer picture books to any other type of book. 

It can be hard to find books that celebrate all of our differences and spotlight authors with different backgrounds from around the world. "Own Voices" books feature a main character from a marginalized group and are authored by a person from the same group. Below are some book suggestions that speak both to the scared little girl in middle school and the proud Muslim woman that I am today.

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

This beautifully illustrated story is about a young girl’s love for her mother’s khimar or hijab. The young girl plays dress-up with her mother’s head scarves. Her mother’s khimar transforms her into a superhero, a mama bird, and a queen. This book is a great way to introduce cultural diversity and it speaks to any child who has ever identified with their mother by trying on her clothes. I used to sneak into my mother’s closest and try on all of her colorful hijabs. This story brings back many wonderful memories. 

Crescent Moons and Pointed Minarets: A Muslim book of shapes by Hena Khan

The colorful and interdimensional images in this book are mesmerizing. They transport the reader to a peaceful and magical place while introducing new shapes and concepts.This book offers a wonderful introduction to the Islamic world. Aimed at both Muslim and non-Muslim readers, this books does a great job of telling and showing what a mihrab, a mimbar, and a mosque are. This book also offers a refreshing look at the many faces of Islam and the diversity of Muslims around the world.

Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan

Have you ever been stuck in the house when you’re desperate to go outside? This story brings to life the struggle of millions of children across the world, those who live in war-torn countries and have lost the freedom of childhood. Young Yazan doesn’t understand why he can’t play outside anymore or why the smile has left his mother’s face. He tries to keep busy but he remembers how much fun he would have playing outside. While this book has dark themes, as life and war are dark, the story shows the ray of hope that we all have inside of us. This is a heavy topic but will be a much-needed eye-opener for some readers, both young and old. 

Other book recommendations: 

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan 

Amal Unbound: Aisha Saeed

Plazas are an open community space where migrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our web page for more information.

Written by Plaza Voices on February 8, 2019