Amina's Voice is an award winning novel by Hena Khan that tells the story of Amina, a Pakistani-American girl starting middle school and dealing with all the challenges of growing up while grappling with bigotry in her school and community. It is a powerful story that speaks to universal struggles middle schoolers face navigating friendships and family dynamics while also exposing the many acts of prejudice students of color experience. Amina's Voice beautifully highlights the ways in which diverse communities can come together to support each other and create change.
Amina is a young Pakistani-American girl growing up outside Milwaukee with her loving mother, father, and older brother Mustafa. She has a beautiful singing voice and is a gifted piano player. However, Amina is terrified of public speaking and hates being in the spotlight. Only her closest family and friends know how talented she is.
Amina's best friend is Soojin, who is Korean-American. Soojin is excited about her upcoming citizenship ceremony. She tells Amina that she is going to change her name to something that is more "American sounding". It worries Amina that in giving up her name, Soojin will be giving up an important part of herself. She also wonders if this means that Soojin is changing and, thus, so is their friendship. To make matters worse, Soojin has befriended Emily, a girl who used to join in with other classmates in teasing Amina and Soojin about their different foods and cultures. Amina is certain that she could never forgive Emily and be friends with her, but Soojin continues to invite her to join them.
Amina's brother Mustafa is having a hard time staying out of trouble and their parents put a lot of pressure on him to do well in school. Their mosque will be holding a Quran recitation competition with a scholarship awarded to the winner and Amina's parents expect the kids to participate, which terrifies Amina. To top it off, their very conservative uncle, Thaya Jaan, is coming to visit from Pakistan. Her parents ask him to help the children prepare for the competition. One day, Amina overhears Thaya Jaan complaining to her father that she plays too much music, saying that it is "haram" or forbidden. This is a debated point in Islam and Amina's parents disagree, but she doesn't hear her father say anything to dispute his older brother. Amina is left feeling confused and worried.
A misunderstanding causes Emily to believe Amina has betrayed her trust. Soojin is horrified that her best friend could do something hurtful. Amina feels terrible and realizes that Emily just wanted to be friends after all. Feeling upset and confused, Amina confides in her mother what she overheard Thaya Jaan say. Her mother is adamant that her musical talents are a gift and that she should continue to play and sing. She also advises Amina that her misunderstanding with Emily can be resolved through compassionate communication. The talks Amina has with her mother help her to see things more clearly and gain some peace of mind.
Tragically that peace is interrupted when Amina's mosque is horribly vandalized in a hate crime. The building is burned and the beautiful and sacred things inside are torn and destroyed. Her family and Muslim community are devastated at the loss. In a beautiful show of support, everyone in the greater community rallies together including the school, churches, and synagogues to support them and help to rebuild. It is a powerful show of solidarity.
To lift their spirits, Amina's parents encourage her to play piano for those gathered at their house. It brings everyone great comfort in their grief and Amina is pleasantly surprised to see that even Thaya Jaan appreciates it and appears to have changed his mind. After making up with Soojin and Emily, Amina is surprised again when Emily's father offers to donate his contracting skills to help rebuild. Soojin's church holds a fundraiser for the mosque as well as hosts the Quran recitation competition which, to everyone's surprise, Mustafa wins!
With renewed confidence after her success at the Quran recitation competition, Amina decides to perform the solo for her school's concert which she had previously turned down. Her music teacher is thrilled and when Amina gets up on stage, she stuns the audience with a soulful and moving rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come", "believing the lyrics with all her might".