Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Muslim Girl

It was a few days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks. An awesome teacher at my school was reading aloud "Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story" by Nora Raleigh Baskin to her class. 

The week after Labor Day, this fourth grade class and I were able to Skype with Nora Raleigh Baskin herself. 

And wow.

We learned that Ms. Baskin had done SO MUCH research before writing her book. We learned that she was inspired to write this book after seeing a movie about Robert F. Kennedy. She wanted to help kids of today understand what 9/11/2001 was like for kids living during that time in history. (Remember, for kids today, 9/11 is historical fiction.)

It was an inspirational Skype session and the fourth graders were enthralled.

One girl in particular was especially impacted. 
I will call her Sruti.

You see, Sruti is Muslim. As are many students at my school.

In the book "Nine, Ten," readers meet characters with many perspectives. We meet Naheed, a Muslim girl who experiences the events of 9/11 very differently than other characters.

During our Skype session, Sruti felt strongly that she share that her mother was on her way to Mecca for a pilgrimage. Sruti thanked Nora for including a Muslim girl character. She also wanted Nora to know that she is indeed, Muslim. The other students in her class listened attentively.

A week or so later, we wrote Thank You notes to Nora for her Skype time with us.

Sruti wrote:

"Dear Nora,
Thank you for Skyping with us! Thank you for dedicating your time for us! We really appreciate it. I hope you had as much fun as we did. Also, I Facetimed my mom to tell her how nice and amazing you are and she said that she really wants to meet you!
Love, The Muslim Girl"

There is a quiet part of me that is so freaking thrilled that this girl owns and is proud of her identity as a Muslim girl, in the midst of all of the turmoil and issues surrounding the anniversary of 9/11. 

This is why books about difficult topics are important for kids. Sruti sees the events of 9/11 in such a different way than I do. She saw herself in a mirror while reading about Naheed's experiences in the book. I don't have that same perspective. I just watch through my window.

I wish we had more books from authors who are from the Middle East. I wish we had more book characters who reflect the Middle Eastern population at my school. I want my students to see themselves in the books they read.

If you haven't read "Nine, Ten" yet, I would highly recommend it.


  1. This is incredible, Ann. Thank you for sharing your experience. What a lucky class to Skype with Nora too!

  2. Wow, what an amazing experience for ALL! Thank you for writing to share this!