Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam by Sambul Ali-Karamali (published August 2012 by Delacourt Books for Young Readers) provides a practical and personal account of what it means to be a Muslim in America. Relating her own personal experiences growing up as a Muslim in Southern California, Ms Ali-Karamali manages to speak to young adults in both a practical and a friendly tone as she explains the difficulties and complications that arise from being a part of a commonly misunderstood religious minority in America.
Although the book certainly remains a personal account throughout, with the additional weight of the author’s educational training (she has a J.D. in Islamic Law), Growing Up Muslim also speaks with authority about the complicated facets of being Muslim. She describes basic Islamic beliefs (including various ways of interpreting and living those beliefs), as well as the difficulties youth and children may have in living their religion in a country where others do not seek to understand or simply are ignorant (such as those times when she was fed pork, not realizing it was pork until after she had eaten it).
I have read a number of books about Islam, and I’m always eager to learn more. As a part of the Judeo-Christian majority that makes up America, I must admit that as a child and teenager I was pretty ignorant of both the tenants and the practices of Islam. Given the amount of time I’ve studied Islam in the past (including a brief Islamic culture class I took while living in Jerusalem more than a decade ago), I wouldn’t say Growing Up Muslim revealed anything new or surprising to me. But it was still highly valuable and intensely interesting to me. What it did provide me with was a distinct personality giving voice to difficulties. Ms Ali-Karamali’s stories reminded me how real her challenges are in America today — but it also reminded me how similar childhood is for American kids, regardless of religion.
While I don’t think teenagers today are as unfamiliar with Islam as I may have been three decades ago, given the highly charged political situations around the world, misunderstandings may be much more rampant. Sambul Ali-Karamali’s book paints a clear picture for youth today of what Islam means for a young Muslim in America. In some respects, I think a practical explanation of Islam like this is a necessary read for American youth today: they must seek to understand the other religious traditions they will most certainly encounter regularly throughout their lives.
I highly recommend Growing Up Muslim.
Note: I received a digital review copy from the publisher via netgalley.com for review consideration.