Book Review | Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia Edited by Amra Pajalic & Demet Divaroren

coming-of-age-book-review-paiges-pagesTITLE: Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia
EDITORS: Amra Pajalic and Demet Divaroren
PUBLISHER: Allen & Unwin
RELEASE DATE: February 2014
GENRE: Junior Nonfiction, Religion

This collection of short memoirs shares the challenges of growing up Muslim in Australia.  I love that the focus of Coming of Age is on the struggles of being a young person, irrespective of religion.  This makes the authors relatable to junior readers everywhere.  

I wondered if there were going to be girls like me from the Middle East.  Would there be any Muslim students in my class?  And how many of them would have just arrived in Australia as I had?  Would they speak Arabic like me?  Would I be able to keep up with the schoolwork?  Would I make friends? – Muslim Footprint by Arwa El Masri page 84

Coming of Age features “mishmash” Muslims who migrated from all over the globe, or who, despite being born in Australia, are still viewed as “Other”.  Instead of focusing on religion – risking alienating many readers – this book is about being a teen, making friends, and fitting in.

I love how these stories encourage us to let go of preconceived ideas.  They prove how often our generalisations are wrong.  These authors describe growing up in a range of contexts.  I think the strong sporting feature is perfect for Australian junior readers, as sport is ingrained in Australian culture and is a crucial melting pot for social acceptance amongst school kids.  Reading about boys and girls from Muslim backgrounds in these contexts reminds us that everyone should be allowed to be and do whatever they dream.

I didn’t know what the right path was for me; I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I felt I should have all the answers and it scared me that I didn’t.  I was always trying to please others before pleasing myself.  I wanted to be accepted but I didn’t known how to accept myself – Fighting Spirit by Bianca Elmir page 35

Some of the stories focus on body image, rebelling against parents, and not knowing what direction to take after school.  In these stories, being Muslim has little or nothing to do with the author’s struggles.  Reading these experiences shows us that they share our journey and are the same as us.

I wasn’t strong enough to face a society that would judge me because of what I was wearing without knowing me – Muslim Footprint by Arwa El Masri page 88

I strongly feel Coming of Age has the power to create change in the attitudes of young people.  In Australia, we’re surrounded by people with different backgrounds and beliefs, but who share our struggles and have incredible stories to tell.  I hope this book can help young readers stop seeing Muslim people as “Other”, and accept them as friends who are on the same journey.  

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