All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney
Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2019, 432 pages
Trigger Warnings: Islamophobia, death of a loved one
About the Author: Nadine Jolie Courtney is a journalist and editor whose work has appeared in Town & Country, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Robb Report, GQ, and Angeleno. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Bravo. A graduate of Barnard College, she is the author of the YA novel Romancing the Throne, as well as Confessions of a Beauty Addict and the bestselling beauty guide Beauty Confidential. She lives in Santa Monica, California with her family.
“Maybe I’m betraying my fellow Muslims by stuffing half of my identity away.”
Allie Abraham has never been particularly religious, and as a white-passing Circassian Muslim, she hasn’t felt the need to be forthcoming to her peers about her heritage. Her father, “Mo,” is a born and raised Muslim from a prominent Jordanian family of Circassian descent, and he disavows religion in the name of science. Her cheerleader mother from Florida converted from Catholicism to Islam after marrying Mo, but doesn’t practice, either. Allie always felt out of place at family reunions, having never practiced Islam seriously or learned Arabic to communicate with her extended family. When she begins questioning her identity and her place in the world, Allie dives headfirst into studying the history of Islam, learning Arabic, and joining a girls-only Qur’an study group. By the end, Allie has a better grasp of where she belongs in the Muslim community, her school, and the world at large.
Beginning with Allie standing up for her father on a plane when a bigot complains about Mo speaking Arabic on the phone, All-American Muslim Girl immediately drew me in. Allie feels like a friend from the start of the book, possibly because of the first-person narration but more likely because of how fleshed out and rounded she is as a character. The reader is taken along Allie’s journey in exploring her faith, identity, and how she goes about presenting herself to the world around her.
There are many things to appreciate about Allie’s story. As a non-religious person myself with only brief knowledge from an introduction to world religions class, I especially enjoyed Courtney’s efforts to include different interpretations of Islam shown through the spirited debates of such strong young women in Allie’s study group. Another aspect to celebrate is the wholesome relationship between Allie and her love-interest, Wells; while Wells’ father is problematic, his relationship with Allie is nothing but supportive and sweet without the angst I often see in YA romance arcs. Allie’s relationship with her parents, and especially with her skeptical father who eventually accepts her decision to pursue a spiritual life, is heartening and really completed the story for me.
PRR Writer, Caroline Ross
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