Call Me Al

  • By: Wali Shah,
  • Pages:264
  • Publisher:Orca Book Publishers
  • Themes:spoken word poetry, Pakistani immigrant family, Islamaphobia, racism, microaggression
  • Available:03/12/2024
  • Lexile:620L
  • Fountas & Pinnell Text Level Gradient:Z
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Ali is an eighth-grade kid with a lot going on.

Between the pressure from his immigrant parents to ace every class, his crush on Melissa, who lives in the rich area of town while he and his family live in a shabby apartment complex, and trying his best to fit in with his friends, he feels like he’s being pulled in too many different directions.

But harder still, Ali is becoming increasingly aware of the racism around him. Comments from his friends about Pakistani food or his skin color are passed off as jokes, but he doesn’t find them funny. And when Ramadan starts, Ali doesn’t tell anyone he’s fasting because it just seems easier. Luckily he finds solace in putting his feelings into words—and poems. But his father is dead set against him using art as a distraction when he’s got schoolwork and a future career as a doctor to focus on.

Ali’s world changes when he, his mom and his little brother are assaulted by some racist teens. Ali must come to terms with his roiling feelings about his place in the world, as a Pakistani immigrant, a Muslim and a teenager with his whole life ahead of him. With help from his grandfather, an inspiring teacher and his friend, Ali leans on his words for strength. And eventually he finds his true voice.

The epub edition of this title is fully accessible.

“This coming-of-age story examines issues that are relatable to many Muslim readers, including self-censoring of one’s identity, deflecting racist banter, and facing hate crimes…Ali’s teacher’s persistent efforts to reach him, his grandfather’s support, and his friends’ solidarity offer road maps for building community. A wholesome story with room and grace for all the characters to learn and grow.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“A timely and highly relevant story, Call Me Al seems both ripped from today’s headlines and sharply reflective of contemporary diverse pre-teens’ experiences and thinking… original, engrossing, and inspiring. Recommended.”

– CM: Canadian Review of Materials

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