A fellow multicultural blogger recently shared this awesome book “The Arabic Quilt” by Aya Khalil on Facebook. It sounded really interesting, therefore I contacted the author and ask to review the book. Below you will find my review.
Kanzi’s family has moved from Egypt to America, and on her first day in a new school, what she wants more than anything is to fit in. When Mama wears a hijab and calls her daughter Habibti (dear one). When she leaves, the teasing starts.
That night, Kanzi wraps herself in the beautiful Arabic quilt her teita (grandma) in Cairo gave her and writes a poem in Arabic about the quilt. Next day her teacher sees the poem and gets the entire class excited about creating a “quilt” (a paper collage) of student names in Arabic. In the end, Kanzi’s most treasured reminder of her old home provides a pathway for acceptance in her new one.provided by the Author, Aya Khalil
My kids and I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations were vibrant and colorful. The book confronts the fears of being in a new place. We are not told why Kanzi and her family moved from Egypt to America but we can relate to how Kanzi wants to fit in with the other kids. She asks her mom to make her turkey sandwich for lunch instead of a traditional family meal. My kids related their first day of school to Kanzi’s, both of them felt like they needed to make friends fast in order to fit in. We understand how she is trying to please both her parents and her new culture. She is comforted by the quilt that her grandma made for her, but longs to be understood by her classmates.
Not only is there a glossary of words written in Arabic in the back of the book, but Kanzi’s teacher discusses words whose origins are from Arabic when a student starts making fun of the way Arabic sounds.
Molly is not enthusiastic about the project. “Who cares about Arabic? We live in America. My mom says we should only speak English.” In response, Mrs. Haugen starts writing words on the board: algebra, coffee, lemon, sugar.
I think that this is powerful, because people don’t realize that words in their own language could stem from the language that they think sounds funny.
Throughout the book, the other children in Kanzi’s class and her school inspire one another to learn about each other’s culture. They are encouraged to work together to create something beautiful together.
“Those are my classmates’ names in Japanese!” Kura says. “Our teacher was inspired by your classroom’s idea, and she asked me to help write
everyone’s name in Japanese. Aren’t languages a beautiful thing? They can truly unite us!”
My kids and I really enjoyed this book. Often we feel that we don’t fit in with the country where we live, but just like Kanzi, we have discovered that we can appreciate our origins.
This book is set to be released on February 18, 2020 by Tilbury House.
About the Aya Khalil
Aya Khalil is an adjunct instructor at the University of Toledo and a freelance blogger and writer. The Arabic Quilt is her first book is based on events from her childhood, when she immigrated at the age of one to the U.S. from Egypt with her parents and siblings.