Ages: 8 - 12Producer: Hachette Audio


Author Ibtihaj Muhammed reads the prologue of Proud explaining her hopes for the story. She tells of her experience as a young girl navigating a world where she’s not like everyone else, as her teacher declares “Ibtihaj is too hard to pronounce,” so she’ll be called “Ibti.”

Black, Muslim, Athlete. Daughter, Student, Olympic Fencer and Entrepreneur are among the many words used to describe Ibtihaj. With Proud, Ibithaj says, “I want people to understand who I really am.”

The story is read expressively by narrator Suehyla El Attar. When Ibtihaj is “whining,” you know it. When Ibithaj is excited, listeners sense it — not just from the author’s words, but also from the narrator’s tone. As Ibtihaj faces defeat and feelings of “otherness” amid a sea of white fencers, parents and referees, you feel it.

In high school, her friends ran track, but Ibtihaj decided that fencing would open doors to an elite college. Being admitted to Duke University was only the beginning as she trained to compete for the Olympics. Losing out on a shot at the 2012 team only made her more determined for the 2016 games.

As she became more well known, Ibtihaj was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People and taught Michelle Obama how to fence. But listeners will hear that the journey wasn’t easy. Exhaustion, panic and anxiety all set in at times for Ibtihaj the elite athlete, the clothing designer, the young woman. Her inspiring story is far from sugarcoated.

The companion PDF includes fencing terminology, photos of Ibtihaj and her family, and a list with valuable pieces of advice.

Ann Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.