by Hena Khan
Related Activities & Resources:
Hena Khan website:
Hena Khan biography
Hena Khan interview (Mr. Schu Reads blog):
Activities & Resources:
Reading Group Guide to Amina’s Voice:
Make a list of 20 Pakistani or Korean words used in the book which are unfamiliar to you. Write a word on one side of an index card and its definition on another card. With a friend, create a card game using the new words and their definitions.
Choose an event that you think is important to the book’s plot. Pretend that you are Amina and write a journal entry about the event from her character’s point of view. Now pretend that you are Soojin, Bradley, Emily, or Mustafa and write about the same event from this second character’s perspective. What differences do you find in the ways the two characters experience the same event?
Using pen and ink, pencil, watercolor, or colored marker, design a new book jacket cover for the book. How does your cover differ from the original book jacket? Why did you make those changes?
Conduct an oral history interview with an adult or classmate who has lived in another country. Explore the challenges the person experienced living in two different cultures. Share the interview with the class or create a podcast based on the interview. Use the following links to find resources to help with the interview and with creating a podcast:
In the book, Amina gives Soojin a silver necklace with a little treasure-chest charm because her friend’s Korean name means “treasure.” Using an online or print resource, look up the meaning of your name. Design a charm or pendant that represents your name. Write a paragraph about the design process, explaining how you decided on this particular design for your name charm.
Explore and Learn:
If accessible through your library, check the TexQuest digital resources for articles on Islamic religion and culture, the Arabic alphabet, Pakistani and Korean food, Pakistan, the naturalization process (becoming a U.S. citizen), and music used in the book. These resources include Britannica Online School Edition, National Geographic Kids (Gale), Kids InfoBits (Gale), ¡Informe! (Gale), and ProQuest SIRS Discoverer. See the campus librarian for login information for TexQuest resources.
Use the sites below to gather information for student/class projects or just to find out more about these topics in the book.
Islamic Religion and Culture:
Facts about Islam:
Islamic Center of Milwaukee:
Arabic Alphabet Song (video) (4:32):
Pakistani and Korean Food:
Chicken Tikka Masala:
Becoming a U.S. Citizen:
What does it take to become a U.S. citizen? (for kids):
Music in Amina’s Voice:
Read the lyrics to A Change is Gonna Come, the song Amina sings at the carnival:
Listen to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8, the piece Amina plays for her family (16:33):
Working individually or in a group, identify a key scene in the book to re-enact. Write a script for the scene, and locate actors, costumes, music, and props for the production. Video the scene and share with the class. With permission, post to the classroom website or Google Drive.
Create a book trailer for Amina’s Voice, using digital tools like iMovie or Animoto. Post your trailer on a classroom website or (with permission) on Google Drive, so that other students can enjoy your work.
Using materials that you can easily obtain for this project, build a 3-D model of Amina’s mosque, based on the description in the book and on your personal research. Display your model in the classroom or library with a copy of the book.
Make a list of the main characters in the book, including Amina, Soojin, Emily, Mustafa, Baba, Mama, Thaya Jaan, Iman. Using available art supplies or a computer drawing tool, create a poster for each character on your list. Each poster should include the character’s name, a sketch of the character, and an adjective describing this person. Share your posters with classmates who are also completing this project to see how your view of the characters differs from those of other readers.
Big Idea Questions:
Religious and cultural tolerance is an important issue in Amina’s Voice. Amina’s family participates in two cultures — their American community and their Muslim faith and traditions. What are several examples in the book where the two cultures get along and support each other? What are several examples where the cultures are in conflict? How does Amina learn to deal with the differences in these two worlds?
Throughout the book, the author creates many descriptions of food, frequently including details about preparation and the importance of a specific meal. Why would the author decide to emphasize different types of food and meals in the book? What does the role of food contribute to the reader’s understanding of the characters and setting? What food or meals are important in your family traditions?
When describing his older brother, Thaya Jaan from Pakistan, Amina’s father, Baba, says, “Everything to him is black and white” (p. 60). What is Baba saying about his brother’s behavior and beliefs? Describe how Amina’s uncle changes during the book. What do you think causes Thaya Jaan to change?
Amina’s Voice is a book about second chances. Choose three characters in the book and describe how each character created a second chance to make up for a mistake he or she has made. What prompted each of these characters to want to change? How did other people respond to the characters’ efforts to mend the situation?
What is the significance of the title of the book? Can you think of more than one meaning of the word “voice” that helps the reader understand Amina’s journey?
What does the book jacket design suggest to the reader about the content of the book?
The last line of the book is from A Change is Gonna Come, a song that Amina says made her feel powerful. This song was also often performed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. What is the significance of the line, “But I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will. And I’m ready for it” for Amina? How did Amina come to experience her own sense of freedom in the book?
Book Specific Questions:
Choosing a new American name became an important activity for Soojin as she looked forward to becoming a U.S. citizen. What is the significance of the decision to select a new name? Why is Amina uncomfortable with her friend’s desire for a new name? Have you ever known someone who purposely changed his/her name? What was your reaction to this change?
Amina’s has a beautiful voice but is fearful of singing a solo in the upcoming choir concert. Why is she afraid to sing alone? Has an unpleasant event ever caused you to change your own behavior? What steps could you take to overcome these negative feelings?
Class clown Bradley is assigned to Amina, Emily, and Soojin’s group on the Oregon Trail social studies project. What effect does Bradley have on the group’s planning process? Have you ever been assigned to work with a student like Bradley? How do you think the girls should respond to Bradley to help make the project a successful and enjoyable one?
At the end of Chapter 3, Amina wishes that she had never left elementary school. Moving from elementary to middle school is often a big adjustment for students. What do you think makes this change a challenge for many students? What do you think would be good advice to help students make this move successfully?
When Emily, who in the past has been rather rude to Soojin and Amina, starts to hang out with these friends at the beginning of middle school, Amina finds herself feeling jealous of Soojin and Emily’s friendship. At this point in the story, what advice would you give Amina to help her deal with unhappiness about her best friend’s interest in including a new friend?
“You two better be perfect,” Baba warns his children before his older brother visits from Pakistan. Is this a realistic demand? How does this expectation influence Amina and Mustafa’s feelings about the uncle?
What is the importance of the Islamic Center to Amina’s family and the Muslim community? How would you describe the atmosphere at the Center in the chapter where Amina’s family attended Sunday school? Do you have a place where you gather with family and friends to learn and enjoy each other’s fellowship? How would you react if this place were vandalized like the Islamic Center was?
Imam Malik serves as the head of the mosque and the Muslim community. What is the definition of imam? List some of the leadership qualities that you see in Imam Malik. What does the way Imam Malik handles the incident of Mustafa cutting Arabic class say about this leader? How did Mustafa respond to the Imam’s correction of his behavior?
A ritual is a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed in a specific order. Read how Amina prepares for prayer on pp. 49-51. What is Amina’s attitude toward this ritual? What is a ritual that is important to you or to your family?
Amina’s uncle Thaya Jaan says, “Music is forbidden in Islam. It’s a waste of time” (p.111). Her uncle’s statement makes Amina doubt her love and talent for music. Amina has the courage to question her uncle’s statement in a conversation with her parents. How did her parents react to Amina’s question? Have you ever had a discussion about a troubling statement with your parents or caregiver? What was the result of this discussion?
After Emily shares some of her unhappiness at home, Amina’s thinks, “Emily’s life always seemed perfect to me, but now I wonder if maybe it isn’t.” How does this affect Amina’s relationship with this classmate who had made her jealous? Describe a time information about another person caused you to re-evaluate your thoughts about that person.
When Amina talks with her mother about breaking her promise to Emily and telling Bradley that Emily liked Justin, her mama tells her daughter, “Just ask for forgiveness — from God, and from your friends” (p.140). What does Amina decide to do? Describe her feelings as she thinks about this conflict. Have you ever been in a situation where you found the courage to apologize? What difference did your apology make?
When the Islamic Center is vandalized, how does the larger community support the families who attend the Center? Can you think of a recent incident in your community or in Texas when the surrounding community offered support to a group in crisis? What difference did the community support make? How could you help in a time of crisis?
Preparing for the Quran competition gave Amina and her uncle the chance to connect and work together. What difference did this time of preparation make for Amina? For her uncle? Describe a change in a relationship that you have observed when two people worked together on a common goal.
In the last chapter, why does Amina change her mind about singing a solo?
Book Talk Teasers:
View the book trailer for Amina’s Voice. What elements in the book trailer encourage a student to read the book?
Present the readers theater. At the conclusion of the presentation, ask the students what they think will happen next in the story.
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Khan, Hena Amina’s Voice
197 pp. Simon/Salaam (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing) 2017. ISBN 978-1-4814-9206-5 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-9208-9
(2) 4-6 Since she started middle school, shy Amina struggles with self-consciousness about her Muslim Pakistani American identity. Meanwhile, her conservative uncle objects to her singing and piano playing, and the local Islamic Center is vandalized. A relatable portrayal of a tween who wants to fit in and who’s devoted to her faith even amid her confusion about her family’s varied approaches to it. Reprinted from The Horn Book Guide Excerpt in Magazine by permission of Horn Book, Inc.
Khan, Hena. Amina’s Voice. Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2017. School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-6-A satisfying read about an 11-year-old girl navigating friendship, family, religion, and dreams of becoming a soul-singing sensation. In a quiet Milwaukee suburb, Amina and her best friend Soojin grapple with their own ethnic identities and the pressure to Americanize. Soojin is Korean American and on the pathway to citizenship. She’s contemplating changing her name to solidify her American identity, while Amina, who is Pakistani American, must reconcile her love of singing Motown with her Muslim faith. Popular Emily, a white girl, who has a history of bullying, creates a wedge when she tries to befriend the pair, drawing skepticism from Amina. Things begin to unravel when Amina’s uncle comes to visit from Pakistan and her deficiencies in Urdu and Arabic are exposed-along with the fact that Amina and her older brother, Mustafa, aren’t necessarily the perfect children her father would like them to be. When the neighborhood mosque is vandalized, the greater community comes together. Amina’s struggles to balance her faith, friendship, and aspirations are all resolved-albeit a bit too neatly. VERDICT A universal story of self-acceptance and the acceptance of others. A welcome addition to any middle grade collection.-Christina Vortia, Hype Lit, Wesley Chapel, FL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal , 2017.
Khan, Hena. Amina’s Voice. Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2017.
Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11)) Grades 3-6. Amina enjoys spending time with her best friend Soojin and practicing her singing, as long as no one is around to hear her. When Soojin starts talking about selecting a second, more American name when she becomes a citizen, Amina feels she is starting to lose her friend, especially as Soojin starts to befriend classmate Emily and talk about boys. To add to Amina’s worries, her parents have signed her up to be part of a statewide Quran recitation competition. While Amina has a beautiful singing talent, she’s afraid she won’t do well and is searching for a way out. When the Islamic Center is vandalized, however, Amina begins to discover things about her family, her friends, her community, and herself that ultimately help her through her difficulties, in particular, that the support she needs is all around her. The Amina that readers meet at at the beginning of the story—a shy, unsure young girl—gradually and beautifully blossoms into the confident girl she longs to be. Khan gracefully balances portraying the unique features of Amina’s cultural and religious background with familiar themes of family, belonging, and friendship worries, which should resonate with a wide range of readers. Written as beautifully as Amina’s voice surely is, this compassionate, timely novel is highly recommended for all libraries. Used with the permission of Booklist https://www.booklistonline.com/