Home is Not a Country
Wow, reading this book was an experience in itself and by the end, I felt my heart move with the absolute masterpiece of writing it is!
Genre: YA novel in verse
Ages: 15/16 and up
Islamic Screening: music is listened to, dancing is the mother’s passion and a big theme in the book, violent islamaphobic attack, attempted rape alluded to, illicit relationship resulting in pregnancy mentioned (no physical details described)
Nima is a freshman in high school, socially awkward, clumsy, stuck between two worlds, the beautiful home her mother immigrated from where she imagines she would have fit in (the country is never named though it seems to be Sudan) and her new harsh reality of being judged for the color of her black skin, the hijab (or hat at times) on her mother’s head, the religion of Islam she follows, her broken Arabic, and her shy personality that doesn’t fit in at her American school. She imagines if she was invisible, instead born another girl with a different name, Yasmeen…and her wishes start to manifest into reality. When an islamaphobic attack leaves Haitham hospitalized, she is swept away into a different world where she has to examine what it means to be Nima (herself).
The book has magical realism elements, (similar to Coraline) but I found it very well done and it didn’t bother me, rather it added another layer of depth and wonder to the story.
Islam is mentioned throughout: the hijab of her mother, the Arabic school she learns at, Quran, Athan, and her identity in general.
The way Nima feels stuck between two worlds is very relatable. The feeling of not being fully from your parent’s home country and yet not fully fitting in the country you live in is def one that is a struggle to navigate. One can choose to live in nostalgia as Nima does at first, wishing that her life was different, imaging that it could have been, or one can choose to seek hope and love in their reality. I loved reading her emotional journey.
The book ends on a hopeful note, with Nima’s life not changing, but the way she views it changing. Its a profound story that is universal and the masterful verses will move any reader into examining their own life.
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