Sunday, November 18, 2007

Does my head look big in this? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

This is another quick read. I finished it within 2 days of starting.

It is 2002, and Amal is the only Muslim at her private prep school in Australia. She is a fairly new student, as her previous school – a private Islamic school – only went to 10th grade. While watching a Friends episode during a break from school, she has an epiphany. She decides to wear a hijab (headscarf). It isn’t the first time she has worn it, but unlike before, this is her decision, not part of her school uniform. She faces opposition from family, from school officials and from classmates. She also receives encouragement from members of the same groups.

Not only does Amal struggle with the effects of wearing the hijab, but she also is challenged with a crush (she doesn’t believe in dating or kissing before marriage), school bullies/racists, friendships, and other typical teenage events.

Overall, it was an OK book. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I did feel that it was a little to candy coated at times, and at others a little too preachy. Some of the conversations between Amal and her friends read as lessons on Islam and what it means to be Muslim. They just didn’t flow as a conversation between friends normally would. I was a little thrown by some of the references in the book, as I didn’t think of them as Australian things (“stuffed like a thanksgiving turkey”) or because the American version is different. An example of the latter – Amal states that a large body of water looked like a pool of lemonade. As I’ve recently learned (thanks to my sister’s trip to Oz and talking with a friend who lives there), lemonade in the US (yellow drink made of lemons, water and sugar) is different than lemonade in Australia (think Sprite). So, Amal’s vision of a pool of lemonade was a crystal and sparkling lake, and mine was of a lake filled with urine. Yeah…I think that was a bit lost in “translation”

Would I recommend this book? Eh, maybe. If someone was looking for a book with a strong Muslim female as the main character, then yes, as there is a short supply of such material for any age group. Just for something to read, I would probably suggest something else. Although I learned more about being a Muslim teen than I already knew, the entertainment value was missing from this book.

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