By ZEINAB NAJM
A teacher, mother of five and now author, Dearborn Heights resident Shayma Mustafa celebrated the release of her book, “Excuse Me Ma’am, Excuse Me Sir: I’m Amina, An All-American Girl” with a signing at the Arab American National Museum, 13624 Michigan Ave. on July 1.
“My favorite part was definitely meeting the kids during the story time and Q&A session,” Mustafa said. “I missed being in the classroom so seeing their smiles and innocence brought me much joy.”
The inspiration behind the book came while she was on vacation outside of Michigan with her oldest daughter, Ayaat, who was asked where she was really from. Mustafa said her daughter was confused as to why she was being asked that question so she had a discussion with her.
“I sat down to explain the situation and I found myself in a deja vu moment,” Mustafa said. “My father had the same conversation with my sisters and me, almost 30 years before. Why were we still facing the same issue 30 years later? This prompted me to address the issue using the storybook as a platform for change.”
Mustafa also created the book to address the lack of characters and themes in children’s books that were representative of her own American Muslim children, according to a press release.
“Additionally, she hopes the book to be used as a platform to engage the public in conversations about what it looks like to be both Muslim and American and to acknowledge Muslims’ place within the fold of American society,” the release said.
The book took Mustafa three years to write and publish, and is filled with illustrations of the main character, Amina.
In the book, Amina goes on an adventure through different states in America which highlights the country’s beauty and embraces its scenic features, yet it remains one United States.
“In the end, like every state is one of a kind, so is every American, including Amina!” according to the press release. “It teaches diversity, inclusion, geography and social acceptance.”
Mustafa said she hopes the book’s message empowers American Muslim children to self-identify as an American along with giving them the confidence to become participatory citizens.
“I hope the book educates the entire world that an American is not defined by what they look like or what they believe in,” she said. “Rather, an American is a citizen of this country simply by either being born here or by the process of naturalization.”
As a teacher, Mustafa said the book can be used as a teaching tool by educators.
“I hope educators can use the book as a toolkit to build strong culturally responsive classrooms ensuring success for all students alike,” she said.
Mustafa earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education and graduate degree in educational leadership and administration from Wayne State University.
She has worked as an educator in Michigan for several years and is currently working from home working for an educational testing company.
“Excuse Me Ma’am, Excuse Me Sir: I’m Amina, An All-American Girl” is available on Amazon and the AANM store.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])