Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
If you had told me a week ago that the one of the most difficult things I would have to write would be a review for Saints & Misfits that I absolutely loved, I would have scoffed at you. I would have told you that writing this review would be a pleasure. I would have told you that this book humanizes Muslim children in a very necessary way and I want to celebrate that.
A week ago, I hadn’t heard of Nabra. To be honest, I’m still coming to terms with the death of Nabra Hassanen, the 16 year old who was beaten to death in Fairfax, Virginia last Sunday. No matter what the ‘officials’ say, I believe that Islamophobia played a part in her death. Nabra was a Muslim girl as is Janna, the protagonist of Saints & Misfits. Who knows, this may have been a book she would have read and identified with.
Being Muslim at this moment means going online and reading people talk about how they wish you were dead. Hearing them mock your culture, your heritage, your religion without knowing anything about it. Sajidah’s Saints & Misfits is a step in the right direction: reminding people (as we should not have to) that our children, too, are simply children facing their own issues. What Janna goes through, what Sausun is fighting, and the conflicts Sarah is struggling with are not uncommon. Saints & Misfits show people that Muslims are people and no matter how much the media and certain politicians paint us as evil, no matter how strongly radicalized and evil groups try otherwise, we are just people living our lives.
You should read Saints & Misfits because it’s a beautiful book and it tells a story about hope, family, and community. A love story teases at the edges of the narrative, a friendship blossoms despite prickly thorns, and a girl learns to use her voice. You should read Saints & Misfits because if you are going to hate us, you should know about us first. Ali intersperses knowledge about the tenets of Islam beautifully through the narrative. The story is not didactic nor does it try to proselytize. It just presents the religion as something important to the characters in the novel who may not look like you, who may not have the same faith as you but who are people like you.
I wish I didn’t have to make the case for our humanity. I wish I didn’t have to appeal to yours. Read Saints & Misfits, enjoy the story, learn something new. Remember Nabra. She too was just a teenager.