Illustrator Becomes Picture of Success

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the summer 2019 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Woman wearing a hijab holding a book she illustrated 
A new children’s book helps demystify the Muslim headscarf and inspire young girls to be proud of their faith, thanks to the illustration work of UT Dallas animation senior Aaliya Jaleel.
Jaleel’s lively illustrations for Under My Hijab, which was released earlier this year by Lee & Low Books, tell the story of a young girl inspired by the women and older girls in her life who wear the hijab in ways that reflect their personalities and styles. Written in rhyming text by Hena Khan, the book is intended to celebrate modern American Muslim women who choose to wear it.
“I hope this book helps others to understand better the diversity of women who wear the hijab, as well as give confidence to the young girls who don’t see themselves represented in media yet,” Jaleel said.
This is the second book—and the first with a professional publisher—that Jaleel has illustrated. She also illustrated a self-published book with her English teacher as a sophomore in high school.
Jaleel’s family sparked her interest in both wearing the hijab and becoming an artist. Born in Sri Lanka, Jaleel moved with her parents to the U.S. when she was 2.
Her grandmother taught her to do crafts and painting. By fourth grade, she was taking an adult still-life class. She has been drawing seriously since she was in the seventh grade.
As a child, Jaleel sometimes felt self-conscious about her faith and appearance, so she could relate to the main character in Under My Hijab: a girl who goes through the day observing family members who wear the headscarf and gets inspired herself to also wear the hijab.
In the book, the young girl’s grandmother works in a bakery and wears the hijab in public but goes without it when she bakes cookies at home. Her mother is a physician who wears the headscarf at work but gardens at home without it. Her aunt, an artist, wears the hijab turban-style.
Khan described Jaleel’s illustrations in an interview as “simply stunning” and said they capture familiar elements of Muslim family life.
“She brings the characters to life on every spread, with the perfect balance of warmth and joy,” Khan said.
Jaleel is now working on illustrating the book Muslim Girls Rise with Salaam Reads, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The book will comprise 19 small biographies about progressive Muslim women.