Allison's Book Bag

The Hijab Boutique by Michelle Khan

Posted on: March 23, 2013

The Hijab Boutique by Michelle Khan feels like a religious book. It’s about one big happy family whose members mostly do the right thing. If there are unsavory characters, they’re minor ones and often clichés. And even Khan admits she wrote this book to deliver a message. According to an interview at The Kube Blog, she “wanted to teach the values of Islam surrounding the hijab.” Yet I moderately enjoyed this simple (albeit preachy) tale about fifth-grade student Farah, whose is given the assignment of bringing something to school that represents her mother.

There is one main feature which I disliked, which is that the “bad guys” in this book are rich, snobby, popular girls whose sole function is to ridicule Farah and her best friend. School stories seem to abound with these stock characters. What’s worse is that Farah and her best friend Ashanti are themselves from rich families, the type who have security gates and limousines. While stories about the rich can be handled well, here Farah’s wealth creates an unnecessary distance between her world and mine. That seems a big mistake in a story which is trying to lessen the distance between Islam and other religions.

As for the features I like, Farah is a likeable teenager. She loves her mom, does well at school, enjoys hanging out with friends, and has a peppy personality. Then there is Khan’s message. I have limited knowledge of the Islam religion and know even less about the hijab tradition. Thanks to Farah’s enthusiastic narration, I wasn’t bored by her lessons on the hijab. In fact, I was intrigued by her sales pitch for the hijab as a fashion accessory.

Because I grew up in a Christian home (and still adhere to that faith), I now have a sentimental fondness for Sunday School papers, religious magazines, and Christian books. They’re as much a part of my literary culture as children’s classics and bestsellers. And so I wasn’t put off by the religious tone of The Hijab Boutique. Due to its short length of fifty pages, I can even see The Hijab Boutique being accepted by fans of books like the Perfectly Princess series–which also contains flat characters and overt messages. However, I hope there will be better books to come about the Islamic culture.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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