Reviewed by Beverly Slapin
In this letter to his young daughter, Afro-Mexica Muslim father, poet and spoken-word artist Gonzales gently and lovingly introduces her to the many facets of her world. Speaking directly to Muslim children and indirectly to all children everywhere, he addresses the beauty of Islam and “learning what it means to be human.”
It has been said,
if you climb a tree
to the very top and laugh,
your smile will touch the sky.
From the ground below, the hopeful father looks up at his daughter. Smiling and secure, she is balanced at the top of a tree, her arms spread to take in all that surrounds her. Here, her father reimagines a teaching from Rumi, 13th Century Muslim scholar, philosopher and poet, who wrote: “Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”
As well, there are many Koranic references to dreams, which are often said to be prophecies. Introducing this concept to his daughter, Gonzales continues,
If you stay there overnight,
you will learn to count stars like dreams.
As they walk in the steel shadows of skyscrapers, Gonzales reminds his daughter of the giant Mayan pyramids “that too lived amongst the heavens.” As they fly together through the skies, he tells her that there are “questions we all ask when we are learning what it means to be human”—and “questions this world will ask,” some curious and others hostile. Continue reading.
Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales
Published by Simon and Schuster on August 29, 2017
Genres: Afro-Latino, Muslim
Reading Level: Grade K, Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5
Review Source: De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children
Buy at Powell's Books
Publisher's Synopsis: A Huffington Post Most Powerful Children’s Book of 2017
From Muslim and Latino poet Mark Gonzales comes a touching and lyrical picture book about a parent who encourages their child to find joy and pride in all aspects of their multicultural identity.
Dear little one, …know you are wondrous. A child of crescent moons, a builder of mosques, a descendant of brilliance, an ancestor in training.
Written as a letter from a father to his daughter, Yo Soy Muslim is a celebration of social harmony and multicultural identities. The vivid and elegant verse, accompanied by magical and vibrant illustrations, highlights the diversity of the Muslim community as well as Indigenous identity. A literary journey of discovery and wonder, Yo Soy Muslim is sure to inspire adults and children alike.