Review of Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero, by Saadia Faruqi

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

by Saadia Faruqi

Quill Tree Books (HarperCollins), 2021. 362 pages.
Review written December 17, 2021, from a library book

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero tells about a Muslim boy who lives in the small town of Frey, Texas. He’s lived there all his life. Now he’s starting middle school, and on the first day gets hateful notes left in his locker, apparently targeting him because he’s Muslim.

His family and his Muslim neighbors are building a mosque in town, working together on weekends. But a new group has moved into town calling themselves the Patriot Sons, and they bring a legal challenge to the construction.

Meanwhile, Yusuf and his friend Danial are excited to be in middle school and old enough to compete in the annual Texas Robotics Competition. The catch is that they need enough people interested in robotics in order to be able to compete.

And all of this is happening in the Fall of 2021 – the twentieth anniversary of when the Twin Towers fell. The town of Frey is planning a big commemoration. Meanwhile, Yusuf’s uncle gives him the diary he wrote when he was in middle school and the towers fell. His uncle’s best friend stopped speaking to him, and back then there was also anti-Muslim hate to contend with.

I love that this book exists, and I hope it will get many kids thinking about the perspective of American kids who are also Muslim. Yusuf is a character you can’t help but root for, trying to do what’s right, but unfairly getting picked on.

It was perhaps unfortunate that the author set it so specifically in 2021 – and assumed the pandemic would be over. I wish! (Though maybe in small-town Texas, they would still do a parade on September 11th?) The book was a little slow-moving and a little on the long side, and the plot seemed a little bit contrived — but it was all with a good heart, and I was definitely rooting for Yusuf before it was over. I do hope a lot of kids will find this book.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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