Khadijah VanBrakle’s book, a YA contemporary novel, is notable for tackling underrepresented social issues within Muslim communities.
“Once Upon an Eid” Weaves a Rich Tapestry of Eid Celebrations
Each of the stories center on joy, whether it comes from new Eid presents or learning to be generous to make someone else’s day. They paint vivid portraits of their central characters and their families.
Released in 2021, “Once Upon An Eid” is an anthology of short stories, poems and an illustrated story for children chronicling the different ways Muslims around the world celebrate Eid. The book portrays the diversity of Muslim experiences, from a celebration of Eid in New York City in “Perfect” by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow to Syrian refugees making the day as special as they can while in Greece in “Searching for Blue” by N. H. Senzai.
Each of the stories center on joy, whether it comes from new Eid presents or learning to be generous to make someone else’s day. They paint vivid portraits of their central characters and their families. In “Searching for Blue,” N. H. Senzai writes about how Bassem, a Syrian refugee temporarily living in Greece, makes Eid special by baking his mother’s simple ka’ak (biscuits) recipe for those living in the refugee camp. It is a moving story of how one finds hope and joy, despite living through traumatic and dangerous events.
While some stories tell more expansive stories like “Searching for Blue,” others focus on smaller-scale stories, like Aisha Saeed’s “Yusuf and the Great Big Brownie Mistake,” in which the main character is given sole responsibility for his family’s traditional Eid brownies. Yusuf makes a grave mistake by leaving them in the oven too long, but his family members swoop in with some non-traditional additions to save the day.
Some stories are written in verse, including “Taste” by Hanna Alkaf, and “Eid Pictures” by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. “Taste” is a moving story about a young girl preparing lontong, a traditional Malaysian dish, all on her own, after her mother is gravely injured in an accident. Alkaf makes a compelling story with few words, as she portrays the struggle of putting the pieces back together in a family that has been through something extraordinarily difficult.
“Eid Pictures” is a poem about the trials that enslaved Black Muslims faced and the traditions they were able to create for those who came after them. Thompkins-Bigelow writes, “Picture those Muslims in fields, looking out, / holding tight to memories of the past, / reaching out to visions of the future. / Did they foresee Eids bold and gentle? / Eids loud and loving?”
Along with stories in verse and prose, there is also an illustrated story, “Seraj Captures the Moon,” by G. Willow Wilson and with illustrations by Sara Alfageeh. The story is a chronicle of how the main character Seraj seeks to find the Eid moon, and floats high above the lanterns and lights of the city. The illustrations are full of light, despite being in black and white only. Alfageeh illustrated title pages for the rest of the stories as well, working to capture each tale’s essence, characters and themes.
“Once Upon an Eid” was edited by Muslim kidlit stars Aisha Saeed and S.K. Ali, both of whom have their own stories featured in the collection. The anthology also features stories by Randa Abdel-Fattah, Ashley Franklin, Asmaa Hussein, Hena Khan, Rukhsana Khan, Huda Al-Marashi, Ayesha Mattu and Candice Montgomery.