I Am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth

Title: I Am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth
Authors: Next Wave Muslim Initiative Writers*
Publisher: Shout Mouse Press
Pages: 174
Availability: On shelves now
Review copy: Final copy provided by publisher

Summary: During an era characterized by both hijabi fashion models and enduring post-9/11 stereotypes, ten Muslim American teenagers came together to explore what it means to be young and Muslim in America today. These teens represent the tremendous diversity within the American Muslim community, and their book, like them, contains multitudes. Bilal writes about being a Muslim musician. Imaan imagines a dystopian Underground. Samaa creates her own cartoon Kabob Squad. Ayah responds to online hate. Through poems, essays, artwork, and stories, these young people aim to show their true selves, to build connection, and to create more inclusive and welcoming communities for all.

Review: The cover image is stunning and really helps convey the purpose of the whole collection. Collage is used throughout and is perfect for this project since the book shares many facets of the contributors’ identities. The art pieces told their own story while also supporting the text. We are all so many things at the same time and if we focus on any one piece, we miss so much of each other.

This work was an opportunity for ten young Muslim writers to share who they are and not just accept how other people have defined them. The title comes from the first piece, written by Salihah Aakil, that explores the night. “I decided that every time they likened this dark to pain, fear, or evil, I would write a poem likening it to love, joy, and life.” Yes, the negative stereotypes and beliefs may be out there, but Aakil refuses to get stuck on those. The authors do not ignore the hateful and offensive comments and actions of some people, but chose to answer these with strength and pride in themselves. In “Pride and Sticky Notes,” Ayah Noor shares a story of answering horrifying comments on a YouTube video with affirming actions. Instead of railing against the haters, opportunities are offered for friends and family to think about and share the things they find positive about being Muslim. Throughout, the authors are having the last word about themselves and their community.

With so many contributors, there were bound to be many similarities, but also many differences. Some pieces focused specifically on identity, while others are about interests such as music or how friendships can change over time. No matter the theme or focus, there is a common thread running through the texts and art – as Layla Rasheed writes,

“…I remember what I love
about being Muslim, like
that we welcome everyone,
that we are a community,
and that we all celebrate
Together.”
That is what this collection seems to be doing. They are welcoming everyone to come closer, to connect, and be in conversation. They’re inviting people to get to know them. And, much of this work is a celebration of being Muslim. They remind themselves and share with others the many blessings and benefits they experience as a part of their faith.

Recommendation: Get it soon. For teens or other readers of YA, this is a quick read that will speak to many. It would be difficult to ignore or forget these voices. This book is a wonderful opportunity to see many different ways American Muslim teens are living out their faith. It would also be an excellent mentor text in writing classrooms or writing groups.

*Samaa Eldadah, Noor Saleem, Imaan Shanavas, Bilal Saleem, Salihah Aakil, Leyla Rasheed, Ruqayyah Aakil, Fatima Rafie, Iman Ilias, and Ayah Noor with a foreward by Hena Khan and afterward by Mona Eldadah

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