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Sadia Book Review

My hometown of Winnipeg is an increasingly diverse place, and every day in the classroom this fact is becoming more and more evident. Students come from many parts of the world, practice different religions, and bring a variety of cultural backgrounds with them when they come to school everyday. Learning to respect and value our differing backgrounds is essential. A good tool for promoting this idea is the new book Sadia, by Colleen Nelson.

Sadia tells the story of Sadia, a Muslim grade nine student in Winnipeg who wants to play basketball, but is banned due to a league rule against head coverings. Sadia wants to stay true to her identity and wear her hijab, even as she sees her best friend choose a different path. The pair design their own athletic hijab and with the support of her team, Sadia finds a way to overcome this obstacle.

The book examines the immigrant experience in multiple ways. While Sadia's desire to stay true to herself is supported by staff and students at her school, other characters emphasize the challenge of adjusting to a new country and culture. Sadia's friend Mariam chooses to rebel and remove her hijab in order to fit in. Sadia's mother faces discrimination for wearing her hijab. Amira, a refugee recently arrived to Winnipeg, faces culture shock as she adjusts to Canada for the first time. In reading this book, students will gain a better understanding of the difficulties faced by newcomers to Canada.

While I applaud the themes and main messages of the book, it should be noted that the author does not share the same experiences as Sadia. She can't understand first hand what it is like to wear a hijab, have it linked to her cultural identity, or face discrimination for it. However, she did consult with Nadia Kidwai, a Muslim woman, who could offer insight into these experiences and ensure an accurate portrayal. For this reason, I will recommend this book, but also alongside books that feature #OwnVoices, such as Amina's Voice.