Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter Book Poster Image
Poetic call to be proud of your heritage in a diverse world.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Spanish words: "Yo soy, mi mama, mi abuelo." Mayan pyramids. Muslim God is "Allah," place of worship is "mosque."

Positive messages

Islam is an old and revered faith. Indigenous cultures have strong roots. When people criticize your heritage, you can find ways to be proud. We're connected to the traditions of our ancestors. Poetry and prayer are elevating. All people ask similar questions "when we are learning what it means to be human."

Positive role models & representations

Positive portrayal of Muslims and indigenous people. The family is loving and strong. The father helps his daughter find concrete ways to be proud in the face of prejudice.

Violence & scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter, by poet Mark Gonzales, is published by an imprint dedicated to positively representing Muslim kids and families. The family in this book is both Spanish-speaking indigenous Mexican and Muslim. Gonzales, anticipating that his daughter might encounter prejudice, counsels her to remember her long and proud heritage. The writing is poetic and lyrical, but it's also kid-friendly and accessible, and the art is joyous and celebratory. Gonzales speaks to his daughter in ways that are specific to her background, but also celebrates diversity and inclusiveness more generally, so the book might resonate with kids of other backgrounds who have felt like an outsider.

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What's the story?

In YO SOY MUSLIM: A FATHER'S LETTER TO HIS DAUGHTER, a Spanish-speaking Muslim father suggests "there will come a day" when his daughter will encounter prejudice, and encourages her to say "Yo soy Muslim." He reminds her of her heritage, connecting her to her ancestors, history, and traditions. "Mi abuelo worked the fields. My ancestors did amazing things and so will I." He suggests she remember "Mayan pyramids," and celebrate the fact that she's "A child of crescent moons, a builder of mosques, a descendant of brilliance, an ancestor in training."

Is it any good?

A father's advice to his daughter about her mixed indigenous Mexican and Muslim heritage reads as both intensely personal and widely universal, airily poetic and solidly concrete. In Yo Soy Muslim, author Mark Gonzales' lyrical text elevates thorny discussions of faith and background, and presents them in ways kids can understand. He moves, for instance, from innocent, kid-like questions -- "Why wasn't I born with wings?" -- to "questions this world will ask. What are you? And where are you from? And there will come a day when some people in the world will not smile at you." With the repeated refrain "Yo soy Muslim," he counsels his daughter to remember "I am from Allah, angels, and a place almost as old as time ... Yo soy Muslim. Our prayers were here before any borders were." By connecting his daughter to her heritage, he reminds her, as he so poignantly puts it, that she’s "an ancestor in training."

The art, by Mehrdokht Amini, is lovely and inviting -- colorful, with a folk-art feel. The father and daughter are shown flying through the sky, and you can feel the family's love. The book represents Muslim kids and families in a positive light, providing a mirror for Muslim kids, and a window for readers of all backgrounds.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the family in Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter. What are the different parts of their background? What do we know from the text and pictures?

  • Why do you think the father says "there will come a day when some people in the world will not smile at you?" Why are people staring at the girl and her mom? What do you think they're whispering?

  • How is your family like the one in the book? What's your own background? Who are your ancestors, and what can you be proud of?

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