Monday, March 28, 2016

The Garden of My Imaan: a universal story with contemporary relevance

For our most recent 3rd/4th grade book club we read Farhana Zia's The Garden of My Imaan, a charming work of realistic fiction that covers topics many kids will connect with: dealing with the popular crowd and the mean kid at school, figuring out what religious faith means to you, what to do when some of your friends are growing up a bit more quickly than you are, making a rash decision you later regret...

At the same time, it covers very specific experiences that other readers will be overjoyed to encounter as mirrors to their lives, such as what it feels like to internalize negative messages about a group you belong to and how these feelings, when unexamined, can drive a wedge between you and members of your community; and what it's like to be lumped together with people you actually are quite different from in important ways.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang handles these complexities very well for older readers, but a book like Garden, which makes them accessible to younger students, is a treasure indeed!

One student launched our conversation by asking, "Why are some people mean to Muslims?" Some of the answers these 8-10 year olds generated: "People don't ask questions so they feel uncomfortable and scared," "They think that 'different' means 'wrong'," and "They are insecure about their own lives, so they take it out on other people."

One of our activities was acting out scenes from the book:

Inspired by Aliya's "Dear Allah" letters, they wrote to someone of their choice. One student chose Fumiko Ishioka, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Center, a person she admires from having read Hana's Suitcase

For our last meeting, we celebrated with Indian food! The mouth-watering descriptions in the book made this the perfect ending to a great book club! 

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