Lion on the Inside: How One Girl Changed Basketball

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A Muslim American girl at the top of her game makes a difficult choice in this powerful and beautifully told true story about breaking barriers.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was born to play basketball.

At three, she has her own hoop. By seventeen, she’s the star player on her school’s varsity team.

On the day of the playoffs, though, the referee says she can’t play while wearing her hijab. Her teammates refuse to play, the crowd shouts its support and the referee relents.

With that game, Bilqis becomes the all-time lead scorer in Massachusetts State history and goes on to play college ball, where she is the first woman to play in a hijab in the NCAA - she even plays basketball with President Obama at the White House!

The story follows Bilqis into adulthood and her heartbreaking decision to walk away from a professional basketball career when the rules once again won’t allow her to wear a hijab. Bilqis becomes an activist, fighting for years on the international stage advocating for young Muslim women, and eventually the rule is overturned.

Written in free verse in a voice that captures the cadence of the game, this picture book biography, coauthored by Bilqis and award-winning writer Judith Henderson, is both a love poem to the sport of basketball and an inspiring story about how one person can effect change.

Richly colored illustrations by Katherine Ahmed add further emotional depth to the story.