Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah


Amal's experiences as a new girl in a snobby prep school (and relatively homogeneously white) in Australia apply to most anyone who has felt like an outsider. She is Australian-Palestinian-Muslim and decides to go "full time" with a hijab (head covering). Already on the social fringes at her school, her parents are concerned, but supportive of her decision. Amal misses her Muslim friends who are at another school, but fortunately she has two great pals at the prep school who share their own issues. Subjects include body-image, boys, zits, bullying, cliques, a grumpy neighbor and racist bus driver.

I think many teens will relate to Amal (although her spending money is probably the envy of many readers), and may also appreciate learning about differences and similarities among different religions including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Abdel-Fattah has done a good job distributing the factual tidbits among the characters so they don't read like infomercials or preaching passages.

Amal is wonderfully outspoken, balanced with her inner turmoil, so her voice rings true. She loves her mother, but Amal can't let her think that she isn't ruining her life - and her mom gives it right back.

For those who remember the bombing of the nightclub in Bali in 2002, the
post 9/11 time frame is significant. Amal's responses to her friends, and classmates asking her to be a spokesperson for the Islamic world feel authentic -- and can be applied to any situation where someone is asked to play spokesperson for "all" feminists, blacks, lesbians, nerds, etc.

Definitely a good choice for any library - great for discussion. YAY


At July 9, 2007 at 2:20 PM , Blogger Katie said...

I'm so torn regarding this one. While it was certainly one of the best that I have read so far, there was one passage that stopped me from adoring this book. Amal is talking to her principal and makes this observation: "She never fails to stutter like the Rain Man when she takes a shot at my last name."(pg. 37) While this might not be the biggest deal in the world, I was affronted and confused why she would use a disability (autism) as a punch line in a book that is about self acceptance, defeating prejudice, and not ostracizing others. Yes, my point of view is personal, but it makes me unable to give it a full thumb's up. Maybe.

At July 23, 2007 at 7:52 AM , Blogger Kara Fredericks said...

I loved this book!!! I really enjoyed how it showed that she was just a regular teenager, with the same fears and indecision, even though she was of a different religion that her schoolmates. I think the message of tolerance and acceptance is a great one for the teens (and onyone for that matter) of today. Definite yay!!

At August 15, 2007 at 11:00 AM , Blogger Iris said...

Okay, I went back and read this more carefully, and I found myself laughing out loud at the spunky narrator and her responses to life’s persistent nasty comments from the school peanut gallery. I could really “get” her, which is a big deal when the character is from another country. Definitely a YAY.

As for the stuttering quip.. I think that this is more a movie reference than a "look at the retard!" insult. I noted it too, but I think it was a pop culture commentary on Dustin Hoffman's acting..

At August 16, 2007 at 10:54 AM , Blogger Deb Motley said...

I loved this book, too. What a great way to learn about acceptance. The fact that Amal is so much like her non-Muslim friends can really teach teens that we are all more alike than different. Katie's comment is true, too, and having worked with people with disabilities I'm usually extremely sensitive about disability issues. For some reason, whether right or wrong, it didn't distract me from the message of this story.

At November 26, 2007 at 1:43 PM , Blogger Ms. Zandra said...

I liked this book. I think it is a good discussion book as well as informative. A YAY for me.


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