Mark Gonzales is a poet and a distinguished Professor at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University. Born into a Roman Catholic Latino family in Mexico, he converted to Islam in his early twenties.
He addresses this book to his daughter, in anticipation that she may [in fact, almost assuredly will] encounter hostility because of what she looks like and what she believes.
He tells her that if “some people in the world will not smile at you,” she should say to them:
“Yo soy Muslim.
I am from Allah, angels,
and a place almost as old as time.
I speak Spanish, Arabic,
Further, he suggests she say,
“Mi abuelo worked the fields.
My ancestors did amazing things
and so will I.”
The book shows the dad dancing with his daughter as he tells her:
Say it with me:
Yo soy Muslim.
Yo soy Muslim.”
Illustrator Mehrdokht Amini uses colorful folk art collages to create imaginative pictures that will enchant readers. There are fantastical scenes as well as realistic ones, and depictions of diverse settings that convey the idea that Muslims are part of every culture.
The emphasis is not on the nature of the Muslim faith; rather, the focus seems to be on instilling confidence and pride. “No matter what they say,” the dad tells his daughter, “Know you are wondrous. A child of crescent moons, a builder of mosques, a descendant of brilliance, an ancestor in training.”
Evaluation: The Pew Research Institute reports that as of 2015, there were an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world. Given the number of people ascribing to this faith, as well as a recrudescence of prejudice and suspicion in many countries against minority cultures, this timely book takes on new importance. Children are our future, and they deserve to feel good about themselves, and grow up with hope rather than bitterness. Parents of all kinds will appreciate the positive messages conveyed in this book; after all, any child that is in any way different will face some of the same issues.
Published by Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2017