by Colleen Nelson
Sadia wishes life in high school was as straightforward as a game of basketball.
Fifteen-year-old Sadia Ahmadi is passionate about one thing: basketball. Her best friend Mariam, on the other hand, wants to get noticed by the popular crowd and has started de-jabbing, removing her hijab, at school every morning. Sadia’s mom had warned her that navigating high school could be tricky. As much as she hates to admit it, her mom was right.
When tryouts for an elite basketball team are announced, Sadia jumps at the opportunity. Her talent speaks for itself. Her head scarf, on the other hand, is a problem; especially when a discriminatory rule means she has to choose between removing her hijab and not playing. Mariam, Sadia’s parents, and her teammates all have different opinions about what she should do. But it is Sadia who has to find the courage to stand up for herself and fight for what is right – on and off the court.
Review:I received this copy in exchange for an honest review from Dundurn publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you Dundurn!
I’m going to admit, when I first got approved for this novel, for some reason I thought it was #ownvoices? I realised I was mistaken quickly enough before I started it, but I was still excited and cautiously hopeful.
The novel is quite a powerful one. It seems like it could have gotten very messy, with a lot happening – but it all manages to tie in together quite well. It seemed honest and earnest, and I cannot be an accurate judge of whether or not the refugee status and the Muslim characters were presented accurately, but from my limited understanding of Islam, it was handled with grace.
A thing that bugged me was that, as far as I know, wearing the hijab is an intensely private and personal affair and choice. I have not heard anything about families forcing their girls to wear the hijab – though I may be wrong. It was a little jarring to read about when everything I’ve learned about that from my Muslim friends says otherwise, but it worked as a story.
The family aspect of it all was understandable to me, as I come from an Indian family, and was also raised relatively conservatively. My parents had expectations that I did not want to disappoint, and I could understand both Sadia and her brother’s approaches to trying to find a balance between respecting their parents’ wishes and following their own dreams. It made Sadia a very sympathetic character to me.
My absolute favourite thing about this novel, the thing that made me give it a 4-star rating pretty much, is the scene where Sadia is told she cannot play in the tournament, and her team, and then the whole court starts chanting “Let her play!”. It was such a powerful scene. It gave me chills.
Overall, it was a good read, and I am very glad I got a chance to read it.