Middle grade is always something I’m on the hunt for! As a mom, I’m always interested in what my kids will be reading someday and when I found Barakah Beats, I knew it was one that we’d add to our middle grade library.
I’m so excited to spotlight Barakah Beats today along with sharing my interview with the author, Maleeha Siddiqui.
Welcome Maleeha! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Thank you for having me! I’m Maleeha Siddiqui. I’m a first generation Pakistani American Muslim and the author of the upcoming middle grade debut, BARAKAH BEATS. I love writing stories featuring messy Muslim characters for all ages, but you’ll never catch me working without caffeine on hand.
How would you describe Barakah Beats in one sentence?
A young Muslim girl joins a boy band at her new middle school to fit in while navigating faith, family, and friendships.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Barakah Beats?
Nimra Sharif is a second-generation American Muslim of Pakistani descent. She’s a confident, spunky 12-year-old who loves her family, faith, art, and Marvel superheroes, but especially Spider-Man! (Call her, Tom Holland!).
What representation will readers find in Barakah Beats?
Muslim kids who come from a few different backgrounds and who engage with their faith in distinctive ways and the second-generation experience.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
It depends on the book and how well I know my characters before I start writing them. For BARAKAH BEATS, I knew exactly how the book would end because I knew what Nimra’s choice would be.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
I love the scene where Nimra meets the boys for the first time in the band room! I also love the big scene at the end of the book. I’m super proud of how it turned out and hopes it leaves a lasting impression on readers.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed Barakah Beats?
AMINA’S VOICE by Hena Khan, FRONT DESK by Kelly Yang, and STAND UP, YUMI CHUNG! by Jessica Kim.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
I’m working on my second middle grade with Scholastic. It’s another contemporary, but it’s different from BARAKAH BEATS. That’s all I’m allowed to say for now! ☺
ABOUT THE BOOK
For fans of The First Rule of Punk and Save Me a Seat, Barakah Beats is a sweet, powerful, and joyous novel about a Muslim girl who finds her voice on her own terms… by joining her school’s most popular boy band.
Twelve-year-old Nimra Sharif has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it’s time to go to “real school.”
Nimra’s nervous, but as long as she has Jenna, her best friend who already goes to the public school, she figures she can take on just about anything.
Unfortunately, middle school is hard. The teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids.
Desperate to fit in and get back in Jenna’s good graces, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school’s popular 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. The only problem is, Nimra was taught that music isn’t allowed in Islam, and she knows her parents would be disappointed if they found out. So she devises a simple plan: join the band, win Jenna back, then quietly drop out before her parents find out.
But dropping out of the band proves harder than expected. Not only is her plan to get Jenna back working, but Nimra really likes hanging out with the band-they value her contributions and respect how important her faith is to her. Then Barakah Beats signs up for a talent show to benefit refugees, and Nimra’s lies start to unravel. With the show only a few weeks away and Jenna’s friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates-or herself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maleeha Siddiqui is an American writer of Pakistani descent who loves to tell unapologetically Muslim stories for all ages. By day, Maleeha works as a regulatory affairs professional in the biotech industry. She grew up and continues to reside with her family in Virginia. “Barakah Beats” (Scholastic 2021) is her debut novel.