All Hearts are dead except those with knowledge... All those with knowledge are asleep except those who perform good actions... All those who perform good actions are deceived except those with sincerity... And all those with sincerity are in a constant state of anxiety... [Imam Shafi'i]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Does my head look big in this?

If you enjoyed Looking for Alibrandi, you'll adore this new novel by Randa Abdel-Fattah. It has all the right ingredients of a ‘coming of age’ novel; identity confusion, school issues, parental problems, weight and image dramas, bitchiness, sex, drugs and everything else you dealt/deal with in growing up. However, as an even more appropriate and enlightening twist, the main character is also confronted with something else…

The catchy blurb on the back nicely sums up the whole context of the novel:
The slide opened and I heard a gentle, kind voice:
‘What is your confession, my child?’I was stuffed. The priest would declare me a heretic; my parents would call me a traitor…The priest asked me again: ‘What is your confession, my child?”‘I’m Muslim,’ I whispered.

In today’s society this focus is extremely relevant and intriguing. It also allows the reader to really delve into the life of a young girl, dealing with normal adolescent issues, with an additional focus on religion and belief.

Abdel-Fattah has written an extremely likeable novel, which will appeal to both children and adults. She has easily captured the heart and spirit of her main character, Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim, a sixteen-year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim still coming to grips with her various identity hyphens. Mind you, Abdel-Fattah herself went through the same issues growing up, so the warmth of the novel obviously comes from real experiences.

It’s hard enough to be cool as a teenage when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo disqualifies you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil on your head and getting in the ‘bums up’ position at lunchtime and you know you’re in for a tough time. Luckily my friends support me, although they’ve got a few troubles of their own. Simone, blonde and gorgeous, has got serious image problems, and Leila’s really intelligent but her parents are more interested in her getting a marriage certificate than her high school certificate. And I thought I had problems…

Amal decides one day to wear the hijab, full-time! ‘Full-timers’ are what her Muslim friends call girls who wear the hijab all the time, which basically means wearing it whenever you’re in the presence of males who aren’t immediate family. After many debates and by the power of watching a ‘Friends’ episode, Amal is ready to demonstrate her belief. Not only do the students question and abuse her, but they also are proud and intrigued by such a strong character. However, her religion also forbids her to sleep with anyone other than her future husband. Try telling that to the boy you have the hots for and the feeling is mutual.

To be honest, I had not given it much thought as to how some kids today deal with the normal pressures of adolescence but also have to contend with their religious differences. This book really was an eye opener. It is thought provoking, relevant, and educational. It is a fantastic novel to give all children aged 14 and up. Who knows, the positive message this book portrays might even help break some very uncomfortable barriers between children of different religions and nationalities.


The verdict:
Does my head look big in this? is insightful without being preachy. I loved that Amal sticks up for what she believes in and that the ending wasn’t sickly sweet. It’s a book for everyone. If you’re in the mood for a teen comedy, a romance, or an intelligent view on a different culture – it’s well worth a read.


Blogger »|n|i|r|a|« said...

hmm...I should read it before making any comments..have you got a copy?

9:55 am

Blogger -iishii- said...

No i dont, i really would like to get 1 tho. I think u can get it at the local library or even normal bookshops.

I saw a post up abt it a while ago on Islamic Sydney. People were speaking quite highly of it generally. But nevertheless, i've left the post without any comment from myself for the same reason u havent commented on it :)

9:59 am

Blogger »|n|i|r|a|« said...

p.s. I noticed you stopped contributing to 'Our Microcosm!'

3:42 pm


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