All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019
Allie Abraham has it all going for her—she’s a straight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith—studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in?
ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM GIRL is a relevant, relatable story of being caught between two worlds, and the struggles and hard-won joys of finding your place.
Before diving into my thoughts about the book, I had the opportunity to ask the author some questions and I’m so excited because it’s my first ever interview and I’m so thankful to Nadine for answering them for me!
1. What does All-American Muslim Girl mean to you?
This book is definitely the most personal thing I’ve ever written. Because there are so few Muslim stories in pop culture, there’s an incredible amount of pressure to get the representation right – regardless of whether it’s your own story or not. My motto for this book was: First Do No Harm. Even though it’s my lived experience, I still hired a myriad of sensitivity readers and begged fellow Muslims to let me know if there was a single word, sentence or scene that they felt could be misconstrued.
2. What do you hope young adults, Muslims and Non-Muslims will get out of this reading experience?
It’s my hope that everybody will find situations or characters they can relate to and love while reading, but it was particularly important to me that Muslim readers felt seen, validated and loved while experiencing the book, because it’s so rare that we see ourselves on the page. It was important for me not to specifically write for the Western gaze, and so, for example, I decided to only italicize the Arabic words in the first part of the book — when Allie is still beginning to learn — and have them un-italicized and un-translated throughout the rest, after she becomes more fluent, to mimic her specific, personal experience. I was also given feedback by non-Muslim readers that the study group scenes were a little dense, but they were simultaneously often the favorite scenes of my Muslim readers, so I decided to keep them in. Ultimately, I hope that non-Muslims will walk away with a better understanding of and respect for the religion, while I hope that Muslims will feel respected, and also hopefully be a little easier on both themselves and their fellow members of the Ummah.
(side note: The study group sessions were honestly my favorite scenes so I’m SO GLAD she kept them in!)
3. This is a very different topic than what you usually write. How did you decide that this was what you wanted to write next?
I started working on this book more than 10 years ago, when I first moved to LA, but I quickly shelved it, convinced nobody would be interested. Over the years, both my husband and my friend Patrice Yursik of Afrobella kept encouraging me to write it. I mentally chewed over the idea at times, but it wasn’t until after the Muslim Ban that I re-opened the document. I sat on my couch that afternoon, literally crying as I watched TV footage of the protesters at JFK airport, and I started writing it then and there. It’s only my second YA novel and might be very different from my three previous books, but it’s the work I always dreamed of and which didn’t yet have the courage or strength to write.
~~~Thank you so much to Nadine Jolie Courtney for taking the time to answer these questions!~~~
I received the ARC from the author as I’m a part of the AAMG Street Team but this doesn’t affect my review!
WOW. JUST WOW. I was really excited about this book to begin with because the synopsis sounded so good and also Hafsah Faizal tweeted about it and of course, I HAD TO READ IT. Y’all should know that whenever I go into a book with a Muslim MC I always hold my breath because I’m so terrified of being misrepresented. But this? THIS DID AN AMAZING JOB.
From the very first page, I was in love with Allie’s voice. She was opinionated but also hesitant about voicing those opinions… and then she felt guilty about that. Basically, I was already relating extremely hard to Allie! What was so amazing about this book was that Allie was exploring her religion as if for the first time even though she was born into it. I was also born into the religion but never really understood it until I willed myself to educate myself. It was just so nice to see such a beautiful spiritual journey.
ALSO!!!! She lives in GEORGIA! It’s always fun to have a character that lives in your home state haha!
I really enjoyed the other Muslim characters. I loved her complicated relationship with her family, especially with her father. This touched on a lot of issues without me feeling like every cliche was there (which has happened before and it’s NOT fun). The Muslim friends she made with their differing views about their faiths was such an interesting part of the book and I really loved the fact that they were kind and supportive even with their differences. I also appreciated (though of course while I read it I was so angry which is the point) the “friends” that say “accidentally” racist things. I just thought everything that happened within Allie’s social circle was so important to read!
I also really loved the debates within the book. Because Allie’s learning about being a Muslim, she talks a lot about being a “Good” Muslim and she struggles with the idea that she isn’t good enough. All of these things just really hit home for me. Sure, there was a love story within it (I’m usually not a fan of the whole dating thing with Muslim MC’s, but hey the cool thing with this book was this was acknowledged and discussed!), but this was more about the self discovery and family and fighting racism!
Honestly, I read this book in a matter of a few hours because it was just so beautiful. I cried TWICE (last time I did that was Love From A to Z, so…. obviously, this means A. LOT.). I laughed, cried, felt second-hand embarrassment AND felt the anger and confusion and guilt. I could FEEL every emotion. Can I just say that I was just really proud of Allie? REALLY PROUD, OKAY?!
There’s just SO MUCH I want to discuss about this book but that means spoilers, so I can’t! But just know that I seriously want to buy this book for everyone I have ever met so that they not only get a beautiful story, but also learn about Islam and cultures and religion and family and love and faith.
If you love reading Muslim stories (DUH!), standing up to racism and hatred and ignorance, fighting for what you believe in, trying to fit in, really yummy food, friendships, and drama you would love this book! I would recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about Muslims and see a relatable yet unique perspective about struggling with faith. I think those that liked A Very Large Expanse of Sea or Saints and Misfits would also enjoy this book!
Check out the other stops of the Blog Tour!
Star Is All Booked Up Introduction Post
The Tsundoku Chronicles 5 Reasons You Should Read AAMG
Nargis Kalani Review
Em’s Bookish Musings Review + Mood Boards
Words about Words Review
Scientific Stars Review + Creative Post
The Tsundoku Chronicles Review
Em’s Bookish Musings Interview/Guest Post
A Belle In A Bookshop Review + Creative Post
Fafa’s Book Corner Recommendations based on themes in AAMG