Pakistani American author Reem Faruqi tells the fascinating story of her late grandmother’s life in Milloo’s Mind: The Story of Maryam Faruqi, Trailblazer for Women’s Education.
Faruqi, who was born in 1920 in Poona, India, was given the nickname “Milloo” by her father. Milloo loved learning from an early age: “When she read, her thoughts danced, her mind breathed, and her heart hummed.” Although girls were not expected to continue their education past the fifth grade, Milloo fought for her right to learn and, eventually, for the rights of others as well. When she grew up, she founded schools in Pakistan that have educated thousands of children.
Faruqi’s lively prose brings her grandmother’s inspiring story to life with lyrical flair, transforming, for example, Milloo’s walk to school into a celebration: “Milloo snaked past the sabzi wala, cha-chaed past the chai wala, danced through the dusty alleys, all the way to school.” (A glossary provides explanations of vocabulary that may be unfamiliar.)
Iranian illustrator Hoda Hadadi’s paper-collage spreads are a symphony of color, texture and depth. Hadadi embues objects as simple as the curtains in Milloo’s home and classroom with diaphanous layering and intricate patterns, and the same is true of the vibrant clothing worn by many characters.
After Milloo married and was expected to take over household duties, Faruqi explains that Milloo found herself ill-suited for a domestic life: “When Milloo cooked, her head stewed, and when she sewed, her mind got tangled.” Although this is a challenging point in Milloo’s life, Hadadi still fills her illustration with engaging colors, from the bright pinks and oranges of Milloo’s clothes to her rainbow of thread spools, as well as a multicolored clothesline that stretches across the spread.
The book ends with a lovely full-circle moment as Faruqi notes how today, students in the schools opened by her grandmother stay up at night reading, just like Milloo. “Their thoughts danced, their minds breathed, and their hearts hummed,” she writes. Bursting with energy, Milloo’s Mind is a joyful ode to education and empowerment.