The rise of books featuring the lives of Muslim children is on the rise in the US. Across backgrounds, Muslim authors share stories to readers that serve as important representations as well as opportunities to offer narratives from American Muslim perspectives.
The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia will be highlighting the Muslim cultures around the world from February to September 2nd, 2019. Included in their roster of events will be a play rendition of the children’s book Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie by Ameenah Muhammad-Diggins.
The museum reached out the Muhammad-Diggins following her premiere reading of the book about young African American Muslim, Ameenah preparing for eid and the helping make a bean pie for the first time.
“They wanted to add a play to the 8-month exhibit on Muslim cultures,” said Muhammad-Diggins.
After the reading, the executives at the museum thought my book would be an excellent choice and a unique storyline. The moment was truly surreal!”
Why a Play About a Muslim Girl?
The push among American Muslims for increased cultural representation created growing attention in media and educational organizations to shed a lens on US Muslim culture and how its members traverse society and live day to day.
“The play centers around Bashirah learning to love herself and her love of Bean Pie despite being teased at school,” said Muhammad-Diggins. “She relies on her family to reassure her and rebuild her self-esteem.”
American Muslim culture is diverse and includes a large population of native-born African Americans. Launching during Black History Month, the play reveals a historically-rich facet of US Muslims.
“The play really drives home the point that Islam is comprised of many different cultures from many different lands including America,” explained Muhamad-Diggins.
In a time when Islam is seen as something from the ‘Muslim World’. I think the play is very timely. Needed within and outside the Muslim community.”
Challenges and Appeal
Director Danielle Defassio co-wrote Bashirah and the Amazing Bean Pie with Muhammad-Diggins. The play’s cast includes Nicole Stacie, Brishen Miller, Angie Fennel, and Chanel Herron as Bashirah.
Producers did encounter some casting challenges. “At first, not many African American women showed up to audition,” said Muhammad-Diggins. “You can’t necessarily have a play centered around African Americans without black folk.
The museum and I cast a wider net and the perfect actresses were found to play Bashirah and Mom.”
Muhammad-Diggins assures the play will connect with a broad audience.
“The entire family will love the play. There are comedic moments and times that will make you want to cry.
The messages of self-love and understanding are very powerful. Children will be able to connect and learn vital life lessons.
The play has a strong universal message that there are many cultures in the world, but we are one human family. I can’t think of a better moral right now.
The play drives home the point that we do not have to give up our culture (food, religion, dress language) to understand and love one another.”