Book Reviews

Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices By Ralph Fletcher

Rating 4 ½ Stars

Reviewed April 17, 2011

Ralph Fletcher noted a lack of enthusiasm in boys in regard to writing in school; an almost “failure to thrive”.  And so his inquiry into the subject and book were born.  In “Boy Writers” he explores the topics surrounding the issue and makes recommendations…”that every thoughtful practitioner or parent will want to be aware of”.

The most striking statistic he presents is the consistency in which boys lagged behind girls in writing test scores.  He further highlighted this by noting that the gap doesn’t close by the time the kids hit high school.  A myth believed by many parents.

In each chapter he presents a topic, a sample of a student’s writing and makes recommendations on changes that can be made in the classroom to engage boy writers.

He highlights many of the issues that discourage boy writers: their gender filters and ours, their interest in writing about violence or topics not deemed to be suitable in school, their crude humor, lack of choice in writing etc.

The most powerful recommendations aside from letting our boys choose their writing topic is to engage them in an activity, discuss it, draw it and then write about it!

A must read for any parent or teacher of boys!

Love in a Headscarf by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

Rating:  3 3/4 STARS

Reviewed April 10,2011

In her first book, Shelina goes from a naïve young adult to a mature woman who goes on a personal journey to find love.  Her story is beautifully written and is not too different from women who are not raised in Islam and do not undergo arranged marriages.  She learns through countless arranged meetings with prospective suitors what she does not want in a life partner.  If you have ever had a bad date you can relate to her painfully funny encounters.  It makes you want to laugh and cry with her. And to scream out that when it comes to us (all the single women) vs. them (all the single men), the problem is with them!  This is evidenced by her accomplished circle of female friends experiencing the same disastrous encounters.

In the days post 911, she reflects on the impact of being  Muslim during this time; when the world was turned upside down by this tragic event. It may not have been apparent to  non-Muslims how many Muslims were persecuted, taunted and held in contempt despite their innocence.

Another powerful point Shelini makes is the distinction between Islam which is progressive as evidenced by the relationship with the prophet Mohamed and his first wife and culture (Asian in her case) which is sometimes not progressive.  (As an aside, it was the prophet Mohamed’s wife who asked him to marry her and who was held in high regard)

Lastly, she points out that she has made the conscious choice to wear the headscarf and does not feel oppressed but liberated by it.

If you want a better understanding of Islam or to celebrate small victories of the heart read this book.