Cover image for Sadia / Colleen Nelson.
Sadia / Colleen Nelson.
Publication Information:
Toronto : Dundurn, 2018.

Physical Description:
239 pages ; 21 cm
"Thirteen-year-old Sadia is Muslim and passionate about one thing: basketball. When her teacher announces tryouts for this year's co-ed team, she jumps at the opportunity. Her talent speaks for itself. Her head scarf, on the other hand, is a problem. Surrounded by her classmates and a new friend, Syrian refugee Amira, Sadia learns about standing up for herself and fighting for what is right. Written from Sadia's point of view, the book examines how three female Muslim teenagers experience life. Sadia wants to maintain her Muslim identity and refuses to remove her head covering at a basketball tournament; Amira is a Syrian refugee, reeling from the trauma she experienced when she fled her home; and Nazreen is ready to eschew her Muslim heritage to fit in with the popular crowd at school."-- Provided by publisher.


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NEL Paperback Teen Collection

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Nominated for the Forest of Reading 2019 Red Maple Fiction award

Sadia wishes life in high school was as straightforward as a game of basketball.

Fifteen-year-old Sadia Ahmadi is passionate about one thing: basketball. Her best friend Mariam, on the other hand, wants to get noticed by the popular crowd and has started de-jabbing, removing her hijab, at school every morning. Sadia's mom had warned her that navigating high school could be tricky. As much as she hates to admit it, her mom was right.

When tryouts for an elite basketball team are announced, Sadia jumps at the opportunity. Her talent speaks for itself. Her head scarf, on the other hand, is a problem; especially when a discriminatory rule means she has to choose between removing her hijab and not playing. Mariam, Sadia's parents, and her teammates all have different opinions about what she should do. But it is Sadia who has to find the courage to stand up for herself and fight for what is right -- on and off the court.

Author Notes

Colleen Nelson is a teacher and an award-winning YA author whose previous novels include Blood Brothers and Finding Hope . She lives in Winnipeg.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Fifteen-year-old Sadi Ahmadi, a Muslim immigrant from Syria, learns that young voices can still be powerful in Nelson's story about being loyal to one's beliefs. After living for three years in Winnipeg with her family ("We'd left Syria just before things went haywire"), Sadia is well-adjusted and happy, but she is constantly reminded that she's an outsider, and her freshman year brings many challenges. Sadia's best friend Nazreen, who is also Muslim, starts "de-jabbing" (removing her hijab) and changing into revealing clothes at school; the distance between the girls increases after they learn that they both have a crush on the same guy and Sadia befriends new student Amira, a refugee from Syria. Sadia is thrilled to make the basketball team, but she's hindered by her hijab on the court, and she may not be able to play in an upcoming tournament if she doesn't remove it. The characters can be somewhat one-dimensional, but Nelson (Blood Brothers) writes compellingly about Sadia's passion for basketball, her evolving friendship with Nazreen, and the way that Amira forces her to confront the current state of affairs in Syria. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.



After three years of living in Winnipeg, the cold of aFebruary morning still shocked me. My teeth achedfrom it as I shuffle-walked from Dad's car to the frontdoors of Laura Secord High School. I got to my locker as Mariam, my best friend,and the rest of the kids who took the bus stampededthrough the front entrance. I was about to call out toher, but something in the way she darted past me --head down, feet moving quickly, as if she didn't want to beseen -- made me stop. Weird, I thought. We'd been textingeach other all weekend. Why would she ignore me?"Hi, Sadia," Carmina said as she breezed past me.She didn't stop to talk, but headed toward the washroom,lugging her backpack. With a resigned sigh, Irealized where Mariam had been going and why shewanted to escape notice. My notice. My fingertips were still numb with cold as I openedmy locker and grabbed books for my morning classes.First stop: homeroom. Only grade nine students at LSHigh School have homeroom. I guess they thought weneeded the extra attention. It didn't bother me. I liked my homeroom and I really liked my teacher, Mr. Letner,who taught our Global Issues and English classes. When I walked into Class 9B, he was already at hisdesk typing on his computer. Mr. Letner was tall andskinny and had a beard, but was bald, which seemed kindof funny. Like, if he could grow hair on his face, why nothis head? I'd been intimidated by him the first day of highschool. He had a deep voice and towered over me. But Icame to discover that he never yelled; he didn't have to.He was one of those teachers kids were quiet for becausemost of the time we wanted to hear what he had to say."Morning, Sadia! Have a good weekend?" I gavehim a weak nod as I sat down at my desk, preoccupiedabout Mariam. I knew why she'd gone to the washroom.It was to take off her hijab before class started. "Everything okay?" he asked, zeroing in on me. "Yeah," I answered, but anyone could tell thingsweren't okay. I have one of those faces that you can readeven if you don't know the alphabet. Big, brown eyes,long lashes, and wide lips that I can squeeze and squishinto a hundred different positions. Rubber lips, Dadcalls them. I sunk lower in my seat and kept my eyesfixed on the desk ahead of me, corners of my lips turneddown. I might even have sighed. There was no point in talking about it to Mr. Letner;there was nothing he could do. Mariam had mentionedde-jabbing a while ago. I'd assumed it was just talk, butthen one day before winter break, she'd gone to the washroomwith Carmina and come back without her headscarf. I'd stared at her long hair and uncovered head. Shelooked so bare. The hijab was distracting, she'd told me, and she needed to concentrate for the test we were havingthat morning. A hundred warnings rang in my head. Since that day, she'd been taking the head scarf offmore and more often. Egyptian, Mariam had large,green eyes, wide cheekbones, and skin a shade darkerthan mine. She complained about her nose, saying itwas too big and she wished it were straight and narrowlike mine, but she was just being dramatic. Her nosewas fine. Without her hijab, she'd toss her hair over hershoulder and throw looks at me that said I should ditchmy hijab, too. I'd thought about it -- how could I not?We went to a school where only a handful of girls worehijab. It would be easy to look like everyone else. But that wasn't how I'd been raised, and neither hadMariam. Islam was clear: females, once they were oldenough, should dress modestly. And for our families,that meant keeping everything but our faces, hands, andfeet covered. I hoped de-jabbing was just a phase for her,something she was testing out. I looked up as Mariam walked into the class withCarmina. Today, not only had she taken off her hijab,she'd also changed out of the long tunic top she usuallywore and put on a tight T-shirt. I recognized it as oneof Carmina's; Hollister was splashed across the front incurvy writing. I kept my eyes down, trying to ignoreher outfit. I could almost feel her waiting for me to saysomething, but I didn't want to give her the satisfaction.If she was de-jabbing for attention, she'd have to get itfrom someone else. "Hey!" Carmina said, drawing the word out andflashing me a glossy-lipped smile. Carmina is Filipino and has dark hair that hangs straight and shiny; she's ashampoo commercial come to life. Even though she wasaiding and abetting the de-jabbing, I wasn't mad at her;she didn't get why Mariam changing out of her normalclothes was a big deal. But Mariam did. Mom had warned me about things like this. She'd satme down before I started high school and told me thatI might want to do things like Mariam was doing now.But she said it was up to me to make the right choice. I'dnodded. She'd also said it can be hard living in a placelike Canada where so many people have different beliefs,but that was why they had picked it as our new home --because Canada was a place that accepted differences. We'd left Syria just before things went haywire. Mostof our relatives had already moved to the U.K., so we'dgone there first and stayed with family while we waitedfor our Canadian visas to come through. The positionDad had accepted at the University of Manitoba meantwe'd be moving to a place we knew nothing about. When I thought back to those first months inCanada, it made me cringe. I didn't know anythingcompared to now. After the first day of school, my olderbrother, Aazim, had picked me up from school and heldmy hand on the walk home even though I was twelveand he was fifteen. I complained about missing myfriends and living in a place where I couldn't understandwhat people said. His first day of school had probablybeen just as awkward as mine, but instead of complaining,he comforted me, reassuring me things would getbetter. He was right, of course, but there had been somedifficult days at the beginning. The transition for Dad had been easier. He'd learnedEnglish in the U.K. as a university student and spokewith a British accent that he was slowly losing the longerwe lived in Canada. Mom's English wasn't as good asDad's, but she worked at it every day, going to classes atthe language centre and joining conversational Englishgroups. She took it as a challenge to master a languagethat had nothing in common with Arabic. I knew it washer dream to work again. In Syria, she'd been the head librarian at DamascusUniversity. She and Dad would walk to work togetherafter they saw us off to school. But in Canada, thingschanged. She became a stay-at-home mom, taking thebus to do her shopping and looking after our house. Shecalled her parents and sisters often, FaceTiming themat their flats in England. When we went to the publiclibrary, she gazed longingly at the shelves of books,watching the librarians go about their work with hawkishinterest. Since we'd left Syria, I'd become more Canadian thanI would have thought possible. With barely a trace of anaccent, I was a top student. My memories of Syria weretucked in a shoebox under my bed, the connection to myhome country fading year by year. I cast a quick glanceat Mariam. Carmina passed her a tube of pink lip gloss,which she smeared across her lips. She turned to me, herlips shining like they'd been lacquered. "What?" she asked.It was a challenge; I could see it in the arch of her eyebrow. "Nothing," I replied, frowning at the thought ofwhat her parents would do if they found out how shewas dressing at school. Excerpted from Sadia by Colleen Nelson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. 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