Author: Hena Khan
Illustrator(s): Aaliya Jaleel
Publisher: Lee & Low Books
Grandma wears it clasped under her chin. Aunty pins hers up with a beautiful brooch. Jenna puts it under a sun hat when she hikes. Zara styles hers to match her outfit. As a young girl observes six very different women in her life who each wear the hijab in a unique way, she also dreams of the rich possibilities of her own future, and how she will express her own personality through her hijab. Written in sprightly rhyme and illustrated by a talented newcomer, Under My Hijab honors the diverse lives of contemporary Muslim women and girls, their love for each other, and their pride in their culture and faith.
Brief Synopsis: (paragraph)
Why I like it:
- It introduces readers to the concept of “my hijab is my choice”, and the various hijab/scarf styles women choose.
- The hijabi women pictured are very diverse – different ages, different ethnicities, different occupations, etc
- Each woman is shown wearing a hijab in public, and then without one in private
- Women included are:
- The grandmother is a baker at work, and at home she makes chocolate chip cookies.
- The mother is a doctor, and does gardening at home.
- Auntie is an artist in her studio, and helps the girl hand her own painting at home (plus her hair streaked pink and purple).
- Jenna is the troop leader who wears a hat on her hijab hiking in the outdoors, and then tells fun scary stories at night!
- The older sister is fashionable and goes to school, and then later at night they put on a fashion show and decide which clothes to wear for school the next day.
- Her cousin Iman wears a hijab during karate lessons, and together they dance to some music at home.
- Then they are all shown together with different looks again.
- On the last page the main character is trying on a scarf in her own style – with butterfly wings.
- Its shows Muslim women in a positive manner, breaking so many of the hijab= oppression stereotypes.
- I like that the women had a variety of jobs/hobbies – science, art, culinary, outdoorsy, sports, and student. It shows that hijab doesn’t restrict you and women can do any job they want to.
Things that could be improved:
- I think the author’s choice of “hijab styles” was biased towards contemporary/short styles. My main issue with the book is the exclusion of women who choose to wear longer hijabs or niqab as part of their hijab. They are also a part of the Muslim community and should have had representation in a book where women are choosing their own unique style of hijab.
- The other thing I had an issue with was the choice of one of the activities – “dancing to music in private” with her cousin. The Muslim community has divided opinions over music/dancing, and I think that the author could’ve picked anything but wanted to portray the girls more like their secular teen peers. I really wish she had picked something else like reading books together, or playing board games, etc. to make this book enjoyed by all.
- Kids can try on different hijab styles
- You can get white fabric at the store and the kids can design their own hijab
- Kids can do butterfly pin crafts like the main character
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It’s a hijab awareness or hijab celebration book and not an “Islamic” book on hijab. There’s minimal information about what hijab is and why women wear it at the end in the authors note. It’s basically an everyday story about the hijabi women in the narrator’s life. They are shown wearing a hijab during a public activity/job, and then shown doing an activity/hobby in private without the hijab.
The takeaway message is that “different women choose to wear hijab in their own unique way and they are proud of it!” It’s a great book for muslim kids to see reprentation of the hijabi women in their family.
But more importantly I think it’s a book written for people who are curious about hijab! And is the answer to questions like do you always wear a hijab? Are women who wear hijab bald? Do you wear it while sleeping? Furthermore it breaks stereotypes that hijab is worn by oppressed women or is forced.
The illustrations are wonderful, and the different hijab styles are exactly what you would find in the contemporary American community. My main issue with the book is the exclusion of women who choose to wear longer hijabs or niqab as part of their hijab. They are also a part of the muslim community and should have had representation in a book where women are choosing their own unique style of hijab.
I like the overall concept of the book and really believe it’s a huge step against islamophobia. This belongs in all schools and public libraries! And because it’s a Hena Khan book, you will most likely find it in public libraries! (If it isn’t there you can easily request the librarian to get it for you.) If you have an office/clinic keep it in your waiting room!