Real Life Rad Girls:
Mena and Zena, Girls of the Crescent
Month of the Girl
We are Mena and Zena, two Muslim girls living in Michigan, ages 14 and 15, respectively. We have loved reading our whole lives and have visited our local public library countless times, checking out book after book. When reading picture books, we never saw characters that looked like us; when reading chapter books we would never read about characters with our names; when reading novels, we never felt personally connected to the characters we were reading about.
In 4th grade, we were given a school project to research about a person who we looked up to. We both went to our public library with female Muslim women in mind that were huge role models to us and we couldn’t find any books about them. Later, we began to realize the same thing occurred in other genres- that there was a shortage of books about Muslim girls. In fact, the first time we saw ourselves represented was this year when we read The Lines We Cross, by Randa Abdel-Fattah. The feeling that we experienced when reading about characters like us was indescribable and we were astonished that we never experienced it before.
Books have an immense impact on how children behave, socialize, and see themselves in the world, and if young kids didn’t see themselves represented, there is a certain feeling of not belonging or not fitting in. We knew that we had to address this problem and do something to help empower Muslim girls like us.
We decided to start our own non-profit organization, Girls of the Crescent. The purpose of Girls of the Crescent is to collect books with female Muslim main characters through donations and then gift them to school media centers and libraries around the community. We have compiled a list of books that include strong Muslim female protagonists, ranging from elementary grade books to young adult and adult fiction. We started off in our schools, talking to our school PTAs and asking them for donations. Through this approach, we managed to collect almost 200 books that have been added to the library collections of 21 schools in our district. We have been receiving money donations from neighbors, friends, and other organizations, and even authors have been donating copies of their own books with female Muslim main characters to Girls of the Crescent. As a result, we have donated books to the Rochester Hills Public Library, Auburn Hills Public Library, Lake Orion Public Library, Bloomfield Township Public Library, West Bloomfield Public Library, Troy Public Library, and the ESL Class at West Hills Middle School.
This school year we hope to get our books in other schools around the community and present our endeavour to mosques. Word is spreading about our organization and we have been featured in Channel 4 WDIV News, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Oakland Press, Royal Oak Tribune, C & G Newspapers Rochester Post, and the Rochester Hills Public Library webpage. Girls of the Crescent has established a fund within the Community Foundation of Greater Rochester, a federally approved 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to manage donations.
Girls of the Crescent has it’s own website, girlsofthecrescent.org, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook that you can check out to see the work that we are doing. In our spare time, we are writing a book of our own about 50 great Muslim women who have achieved inspirational things and hope to publish it soon. We hope that the work we are doing will help Muslim girls feel included and spread awareness about the importance of representation and diversity in books.