Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy

Huda F Are You?  by Huda Fahmy. Dial Books, Penguin Random House, 2021. 9780593324318

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5+

Format: Paperback graphic novel

Genre: Memoir

What did you like about the book?  Starting high school can be exciting…or it can be scary. The latter is the case for Huda, who’s just relocated with her parents and 4 sisters (Huda refers to them as a girl band) to Dearborn, Michigan. Instead of being the only hijabi at her school, she’s now one of many, but that doesn’t help her feel any less odd. This very funny and touching memoir is based on author Fahmy’s own life growing up as a second-generation Egyptian-American and her popular webcomic series. Huda’s sisters each have their own identity (the sporty one, the popular one, the mysterious one, the funny one) with Huda being “the smart one.” Due to Islamic prohibitions on borrowing money plus all those siblings, Huda’s parents expect their girls to excel and earn college scholarships. Unfortunately, Huda doesn’t feel like she has much to define herself outside of good grades. Her awkward and hilarious attempts to fit in and make friends will find a ready audience among all teens. Fahmy also explores the Islamophobia and microaggressions Huda faces, even in a school with a large Muslim population: patently false assumptions, racist taunts, and the constant mispronunciation of her name. Huda’s prickly relationship with her mom creates a strong center for the novel. When a teacher’s actions veer into abuse, Huda’s mom schedules a meeting with the principal. Embarrassed, Huda quickly disavows the incident and attributes Mom’s behavior to her poor English comprehension.  Ultimately, Huda recognizes her mother’s true motivation: to give her girls the skills they need to stand up for themselves in a country that’s not always welcoming.

Famhy’s art complements the story perfectly. Her figures are simple and rounded, drawn with a strong and assured eye; they definitely recall Raina Telgemeier’s illustrations and will appeal to readers who love her work and are ready to move up to the high school scene. To convey their more grown-up nature, Famhy uses a sophisticated color palette with a lot of grays and soft blues, punctuated by occasional bold colors: Huda’s favorite red flannel shirt, her bright blue hijab in the second half of the book, the red of the metaphorical heart Huda squashes when she betrays her mom in the principal’s office. Her panel arrangements feel fresh and vibrant, switching seamlessly from conventional to innovative, from vignettes to full page. Even the text helps to convey meaning, with Huda’s innermost thoughts appearing as captions in a serif typeface, while talk bubbles employ a loose, handwritten font. Small, closely observed details help us distinguish between the many hijabis in the book. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. I did think Fahmy could have included some dates to clarify the time period. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  This book would be a great read for graphic novel fans grades 7 up to adult. I learned a lot about growing up as a Muslim girl from reading this book: the discussions at halaqa, the benefits of wearing the abaya (can wear it over pajamas to go to school), the ins and outs of speaking to boys. But even without the educational aspects, it was funny, heartfelt, and will have universal appeal.

Who should buy this book? Middle and high school libraries, public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 29, 2021

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Starred Review, *Young Adult, Graphic novel, Islam, Memoir and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.