In the first few days of May, American Muslims like myself will mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan with a big celebration called Eid al-Fitr. Traditionally, this means collective prayers, fancy clothes, henna, delicious foods, and gift exchanges. This year, it will also include Mad Libs.
Many people think Mad Libs is inappropriate and risqué. They may not know that it’s one of the world’s most popular word games, making children grin since 1953. My own kids aren’t immune: I played Mad Libs with my then elementary school daughter while on a road trip, and haven’t looked back since. Whether you’re alone or in a group, this fun game inserts parts of speech like nouns, adjectives, verbs, even celebrity names and types of buildings into a story full of blanks for a rip-roaring laugh.
I remember the giggles whenever we’d play the game. My daughter thought she was lucky to be allowed to use words like poop and diaper and fart, all in the name of good fun. Little did she know she was learning language skills and spending time with her family instead of alone in her room playing Roblox. I have the fondest memories of this time, so when Penguin Random House knocked on my door to write a Mad Libs all about Eid, I jumped on board quickly.
As a children’s author, I write stories centering Muslim American families. Characters like my first generation Pakistani American kids, who try to practice their faith while living fulfilling, multidimensional lives in the U.S. One of the reasons I write such books is to allow kids like mine to see themselves in the pages of books, their faces reflected back from the covers, and their lives normalized through the stories. I knew I wanted to go further than that, however. Including Muslim observances like holidays into mainstream culture is an important aspect of my work, and Mad Libs is definitely a part of American culture since the last mid-century. If families can play Mad Libs about Easter, Christmas, and other holidays, why not Eid?
To me, this little booklet of twenty-one word games is more than it seems at first glance. The stories within it are carefully chosen reflections of Eid in all its glory of celebrations. From “Henna How-To” and “Glitter and Lights” to “An Eid Poem” and “An Eid Recipe” this book can help players of every age learn a little something about me. My culture. My holiday. The gifts we give each other. The ways we find joy. The foods we eat, whether they’re home cooked using generations-old recipes or huge family gatherings at a local restaurant. And now, maybe a new tradition: playing a Mad Libs game together after a hearty Eid meal.
At the end of the day, Eid al-Fitr isn’t just a Muslim holiday. With millions of Americans celebrating it each year, Eid is an American holiday, just like all the others. I want to mainstream and normalize it, and if I can help children learn the parts of speech in the process, that’s just an added bonus.
Ramadan Kareem and Eid Mubarak!
Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. She writes the children’s early reader series “Yasmin” and other books for children, including middle grade novels “A Place At The Table” co-written with Laura Shovan (a Sydney Taylor Notable 2021), and “A Thousand Questions” (a South Asia Book Award Honor 2021). Her new book “Yusuf Azeem Is Not A Hero” details the experiences of the Muslim American community twenty years after 9/11. Saadia is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose, and was featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She lives in Houston, TX with her husband and children.