If you want to combat the intolerance, xenophobia, and just general ignorance and lack of empathy that results in violence like what happened at Masjid Al Noor mosque and Or L’Simcha Congregation temple and elsewhere, too many places, then you must push your own boundaries. You must reach out and learn and experience more than what exists within your “wheelhouse,” and you must encourage others to do the same. Being nice only to the people who are like you does not make you a nice person. Being generous, patient, understanding, welcoming, respectful and so on only of what is familiar and comfortable doesn’t really live up to the meaning of those lovely adjectives.
One way to challenge yourself, your friends and family, and your children and the wider community is to encourage engagement with books, art, music and other media and experiences that cross cultural lines. Festivals, visiting different neighborhoods and social centers, musical events, plays, movies, these are all good engagements. But most of you know me, and I still insist that one of the best ways to build empathy within yourself and especially in your kids is through books that explore the perspectives and experiences of many people, that show faces and bodies like and unlike yours, that speak for minds that work in different ways than your, that present the beliefs and practices of others within their own contexts.
To that end, I’m posting a list of remarkable books written by Muslim and other own voices authors and illustrators for all ages, because the people who were killed in New Zealand, they are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and grandparents and cousins and sons and daughters and friends, so many friends, just like us, and they and the victims in Pittsburg and in Charleston and more places than we can count anymore, the people who die in senseless wars fueled by people exploiting differences everyday, they all deserved better. Everyone deserves better.
As humans, we can’t wipe out all violence, perhaps. There is always that instinct or impetus. There will always be people who kill senselessly. But to vilify and kill because someone worships on Friday instead of Sunday, because someone wears a hijab or chador or burka or yarmulke or tallit or skirts vs. pants or a robe vs. trousers or just looks different than you, a genetic disparity that accounts for less than .5% of your biological makeup, that’s something that can be prevented. Through learning. Through reaching out. Through understanding.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. And no, I have not read all of the titles. I’ve read a little more than half of them. The others are on my To Read list, and there are more good titles coming out every day as mainstream publishing expands its horizons! I will revisit, organize and add, either to this post or in new posts. Also, there are many wonderful titles that include diverse characters and experiences from non-own voices authors, but I feel the need to limit this list right now. You can search Goodreads, We Need Diverse Books, KidLit411 and many other resources for those titles and their authors.
- Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales, Mehrdokht Amini
- Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan
- Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane and Hoda Hadadi
- The Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story by Hena Khan and Julie Paschkis
- Hind’s Hands: A Story about Autism by Umm Juwayriyah, Juwayriyah Ayed, Emma Apple
- Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan and Sophie Blackall
- Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai and Kerascoët
- Due out October 22, 2019: The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad, S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly
- Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly
MG, YA, and Adult:
- A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
- Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
- The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi
- Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
- Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali
- The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
- The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar
- Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi
- Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
- A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena
- Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
- Ms. Marvel (2014-2015) #1 by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Sara Pichelli and Ian Herring
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- The Kite Runner (Graphic Novel) by Khaled Hosseini
- I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
- The Green Bicycle by Haifaa al Mansour
- Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
- The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf
- Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
- Watched by Marina Budhos
- Due out March 19, 2019: Internment by Samira Ahmed