SERIOUS STUFF! (Stuffed Crust, That Is)

I’ve been blogging about some pretty heavy and serious topics recently with my book lists about immigration and Muslim characters. I have another subject to discuss–something that I hold very dear and take very seriously. And that subject is pizza.  Living in Chicagoland, we have an enormous amount of pizza privilege. We’re surrounded by the best of the best – thin crust, deep dish, stuffed pizza–local chains and family-owned restaurants that serve up Chicago-style pies that you just can’t find anywhere else. You can find it all, unless you prefer New York style pizza with all its greasy floppiness, in which case, you should just stop reading now.

My Top Five Pizzerias

  1. Lou Malnati’s

Closest Location is in Bolingbrook on Weber Rd.

I love their deep dish, butter crust, sausage pizza. The stuffed pizza has the toppings and cheese underneath the sauce, which is new to some people. Lou’s uses a thick layer of spiced sausage that I lovingly call “sausage plate” because it’s pretty much crust-to-crust meat. The olive oil and chunky tomatoes in their sauce gives it a very unique taste that is amazing!

  1.  Giordano’s

Closest Location is in Naperville on Main St.

This is another great place to get stuffed pizza. The sauce is more of a traditional marinara and the sausage comes in the traditional small hunks under the cheese. If you’ve never tried stuffed pizza, this is a good place to start.

  1.  Connie’s

Closest Location is in Glen Ellyn on Roosevelt Rd.

While Connie’s doesn’t have as many locations as some other chains, you can buy their pizza in some grocery stores. (Check Jewel.) There used to be a Connie’s location in Naperville and it was the best place  for a family celebration! My family went there A LOT. The pizza is thick and cheesy and beautiful. And it’s one of the few pizza places that I know of that offers broccoli as a pizza topping. Yum!

  1.  California Pizza Kitchen

Closest location is in Warrenville on Diehl Rd.

If you’ve ever wanted to try a burrito-flavored pizza or a stir-fry-flavored pizza, this is the place for you. They have fairly traditional pizzas like Barbecue Chicken and Hawaiian, but they also have things like Spicy Chicken Chipotle Chicken and Pear & Gorgonzola. My fave is the Carne Asada.

  1.  Rosati’s

Nearest Location is in Bolingbrook on Schmidt Rd.

Last, but not least, Rosati’s has a zillion locations around the Midwest and they’re a great option for your basic thin crust pizza. They offer other crust options, but I actually prefer thin crust at Rosati’s. Like Connie’s, they offer broccoli as a pizza topping (among many others). My go-to pizza here is a thin crust with sausage and pineapple!

I don’t know about y’all, but I am now thoroughly hungry for pizza! Gotta go call in an order ASAP!,w_1200,h_564,q_80/



Muslim Lives in Fact and Fiction

As promised last week, I’ve compiled a list of books dedicated to the experiences and realities of Muslims living around the world. I’ve also included some nonfiction in case you have questions about Islam as a religion. Having a variety of diverse characters (written by a variety of diverse authors) in the books that we read is So. Important. Everyone deserves to see themselves positively represented in the media surrounding them. It’s also vital for everyone to be able to catch a glimpse outside of their own world. We gain strength and self-esteem by reading positive accounts of our own communities and identities. But, we gain empathy and perspective from reading about others. These are all things that we need if we are to overcome the fear and bigotry that are so pervasive in our current socio-political climate.


The American Muslim Teenager's HandbookThe Muslim American Teenagers’ Handbook
By Dilara Hafiz
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A discussion of the basic beliefs and customs of Islam includes responses of questionnaires filled out by modern American Muslim teenagers that show the varied ways they show faith in daily life.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
By Malala Yousafzai
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When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. One day when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Muslims in America
By Anbara Zaidi
Place a hold.
An in-depth look at the Muslim experience in the United States.

American Islam: Growing up Muslim in AmericaAmerican Islam: Growing up Muslim in America
By Richard Wormser
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The author draws on interviews with Muslim teenagers to go beyond the headlines and provides a timely, unbiased look at this important segment of American society.

Muslim Heroes and Holy Places
By Musheen Mansoor
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This book provides brief biographies of a handful of individuals, whose deeds have served as a powerful inspiration for other Muslims. This book also examines the places that Muslims consider sacred, explaining how those sites figure into Islamic history.


Tell Me Again How a Crush Should FeelTell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel
By Sara Farizan
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High school junior Leila’s Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates at Armstead Academy, and if word got out that she liked girls life would be twice as hard, but when a new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual, so she struggles to sort out her growing feelings by confiding in her old friends.

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister
By Amelie Sarn
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Portrait of two Muslim sisters, once closely bonded, but now on divergent paths as one embraces her religion and the other remains secular.

Does My Head Look Big in This?
By Randa Abdel-Fattah
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Year Eleven at an exclusive prep school in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia, would be tough enough, but it is further complicated for Amal when she decides to wear the hijab, the Muslim head scarf, full-time as a badge of her faith–without losing her identity or sense of style.

She Wore Red TrainersShe Wore Red Trainers: A Muslim Love Story
By Na’ima bint Robert
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When Ali first meets Amirah, he notices everything about her – her hijab, her long eyelashes and her red trainers – in the time it takes to have one look, before lowering his gaze. And, although Ali is still coming to terms with the loss of his mother and exploring his identity as a Muslim, and although Amirah has sworn never to get married, they can’t stop thinking about each other. Can Ali and Amirah ever have a halal ‘happily ever after’?

Bestest Ramadan Ever
By Madeia Sharif
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Not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan and forbidden to date, fifteen-year-old Almira finds that temptation comes in many forms during the Muslim holy month, as she longs to feel like a typical American girl.

Guantanamo Boy
By Anna Perera
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Six months after the events of September 11, 2001, Khalid, a Muslim fifteen-year-old boy from England, is kidnapped during a family trip to Pakistan and imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he is held for two years suffering interrogations, water-boarding, isolation, and more for reasons unknown to him.

Ask Me No QuestionsAsk Me No Questions
By Marina Tamar Budhos
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Fourteen-year-old Nadira, her sister, and their parents leave Bangladesh for New York City, but the expiration of their visas and the events of September 11, 2001, bring frustration, sorrow, and terror for the whole family.

Rebels by Accident
By Patricia Dunn
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Mariam, a troubled teenaged Egyptian American, is sent to live with her grandmother in Cairo where she meets a girl named Asmaa who calls the people of Egypt to protest against their president, and Mariam finds herself in the middle of a revolution and falling in love for the first time.

If You Could Be Mine
By Sara Farizan
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In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, seventeen-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin’s parents announce their daughter’s arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution.

Arab in AmericaArab in America
By Toufic El Rassi
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Drawing from his personal history, El Rassi attempts to illustrate the daily prejudice and discrimination experienced by Muslims and Arabs in modern American society. Presented in graphic novel format.

If you have further questions or want more recommendations or just want to talk about some of the books you’ve been reading and hearing, come in to the Vortex.  Reading about people different from you is SO important and sometimes it helps to talk through new information with someone.

Happy Learning!



Immigration & Immigrants: a Book List

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about President Trump’s recent immigration ban and his plans to create a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. You may already have strong opinions regarding immigration and I can’t tell you what to think or believe. (Nor would I want to.) What I *can* do is help you find resources so that the views that you adopt and embrace are educated ones.

I’ve collected a list of non-fiction books to give you the facts. There are also a bunch of fiction novels to give you some insight into the lives of immigrants and refugees. The people in these books come from all around the world. Their backgrounds, experiences and struggles are different but they all have one thing in common – a determination to create a better life for themselves and their families.


Immigration: Interpreting the ConstitutionImmigration; Interpreting the Constituion
By Ann Byers
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The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the powers to define who is a citizen and to regulate who can reside in the country. Congress’s exercise of these powers throughout American history has been affected by the beliefs and attitudes as well as the politics and economics of the times.

Asylum Seekers
By Frank Wright
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Explores the history of the asylum process in North America, as well as the step-by-step process by which a person receives asylum. Includes examples of cases in which people have found safe haven in the United States and Canada.

Immigrant Families
By Hilary W. Poole
Place a hold.
This book explores the past and present of immigration most specifically, the challenges that young people experience when they grow up in a culture very different from the one their parents know.

Immigration Reform
Edited by Noel Merino
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Includes primary and secondary sources from a variety of perspectives — eyewitnesses, scientific journals, government officials and many others. Extensive bibliographies and annotated lists of relevant organizations to contact offer a gateway to future research.

Undocumented Immigrant YouthUndocumented Immigrant Youth
By Stephen Currie
Place a hold.
includes primary and secondary sources from a variety of perspectives — eyewitnesses, scientific journals, government officials and many others. Extensive bibliographies and annotated lists of relevant organizations to contact offer a gateway to future research.


The Sun Is Also a StarThe Sun Is Also a Star
Yoon, Nikola
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Natasha is a girl who believes in science and facts. Daniel has always been a good son and good student. But when he sees Natasha he forgets all that and believes there is something extraordinary in store for both of them.

Something in Between
De La Cruz, Melissa
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After learning of her family’s illegal immigrant status, Jasmine realizes that college may be impossible and that deportation is a real threat, uncertainties she endures as she falls for the son of a congressman who opposes an immigration reform bill.

Flowers in the Sky
By Lynn Joseph
Place a hold.
Fifteen-year-old Nina immigrates from the Dominican Republic to New York to live with her older brother and must reconcile the realities of Washington Heights with the dreams of the U.S. her mami envisioned for her

The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans
By Cristina Henriquez
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Moving from Mexico to America when their daughter suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras confront cultural barriers, their daughter’s difficult recovery and her developing relationship with a Panamanian boy.

Bilal’s Bread
By X. Sulayman
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After fleeing Iraq, the Abu family have settled in the United States. Salim, the eldest brother, has been deeply damaged by the torture he suffered at the hands of the Iraqi police. At only 16, the youngest son, Bilal, holds the family secrets close, revealing nothing.

Ask Me No Questions
By Marina Tamar Budhos
Place a hold.
Fourteen-year-old Nadira, her sister, and their parents leave Bangladesh for New York City, but the expiration of their visas and the events of September 11, 2001, bring frustration, sorrow, and terror for the whole family.

Crossing the WireCrossing the Wire
By Will Hobbs
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Fifteen-year-old Victor Flores journeys north in a desperate attempt to cross the Arizona border and find work in the United States to support his family in central Mexico.

Into the Beautiful North
By Luis Alberto Urrea
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Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US when she was young. He isn’t the only man who has gone north; in fact, there are almost no men left in the village. Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit some men to protect her hometown from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

The Tortilla Curtain
By T. Coraghessan Boyle
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The lives of two different couples-wealthy Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, and Candido and America Rincon, a pair of Mexican illegals–suddenly collide,

American Born ChineseAmerican Born Chinese
By Gene Luen Yang
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Alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in the popular culture. Presented in comic book format.

Check back next week for a list dedicated to Muslim lives in fact and fiction!


Tangled: Before Ever After

I’m so glad it’s finally 2017, which means I can finally see this show!

Tangled is one of my all time favorite Disney movies and it’s exciting to see that it’ll have a TV show! Even better: Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi will be reprising their roles as Rapunzel and Flynn!

The first video is Levi and Moore adorably, awkwardly announcing the release date for the main TV series (March 24).

This video below is a teaser trailer for the film that takes place before the TV series on March 10:

New songs and adventures await us in Tangled: Before Ever After and the TV series airing on the Disney Channel! (and for my sake, hopefully Hulu….)

Saving Red by Sonya Sones

Saving RedSaving Red
By Sonya Sones
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In order to complete her school’s community service requirement, Molly has to take part in her city’s annual homeless count. As she walks around on a cold December night counting people who appear to be homeless, she sees a red-haired girl only a few years older than herself. Molly becomes determined to reunite this girl with her family. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Molly’s mission to “save” Red has more to do with Molly’s own painful past than with Red’s needs.

While I admire Molly’s compassion, I find her methods problematic. Molly brings Red food and clothes and rents her a hotel room so Red can bathe, but she never asks Red what *she* actually wants. She assumes that she knows what’s best for Red and goes so far as to lie to her in order to gain Red’s compliance.

Molly never asks why Red is living on the street. Perhaps, Red had run away from home to avoid physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Perhaps, there are reasons she doesn’t want to call her family. Red has her own reasons for doing things, but we don’t learn about them until the end of the book because Molly never asks.

I give Molly props for not believing all the negative stereotypes of homeless people and those with mental disabilities, but she falls for the idea that they are helpless and incapable of making choices for themselves. While it is true that many homeless and mentally ill people need and appreciate help, it is important to recognize their individuality, integrity, and agency.

Saving Red attempts to humanize the homeless but falls a little short of the mark.