Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Genre: YA fiction, spirituality
Reason for Reading: It was well-reviewed on some YA booklists.
Copyright Date: 2005
Cover: A girl looks up at the red veil on her head. The rest of the cover is white with polka dots.
First line: "It hit me when I was power walking on the treadmill at home, watching a Friends rerun for about the nintieth time." (Interestingly, this is the book's only mention of the home treadmill.)
Best part: I felt that Amal is a well-articulated character.
Worst part: Her parents alternate between saying incredibly wise things and telling her to respect her elders. They didn't feel like real people to me.
Imaginary Theme Song: Something from Greatest Hits of Jerusalem, an album amusingly referenced in the book which may or may not exist.
Recommended for: Those who are curious about the experience of Muslim teens.
Related Reads: Parrotfish, the story of a trans teenager coming out, actually had a lot of similarities with this book. Persepolis and Lipstick Jihad would make nice companion books around female identity and Middle Eastern culture.
"..it's pretty hard to walk around with people staring at your 'towel-head' and not feel kind of pleased with yourself - if you manage to get through the stares and comments with your head held high. That's when this warm feeling buzzes through you and you smile to yourself, knowing God's watching you, knowing that He knows you're trying to be strong to please Him. Like you're both in on a private joke and something special and warm and extraordinary is happening and nobody else in the world knows about it because it's your own experience, your own personal friendship with your Creator. I guess when I'm not wearing the hijab I feel like I'm missing out. I feel cheated out of that special bond." (p 8)
So, for the past few months I have been wearing headscarves occasionally. (For those curious, it happened in between putting this book on my to-read list and actually reading it.) I needed to wear them for a few weeks for a practical reason (here irrelevant) and then I discovered that I found something about the experience enjoyable.
To hit the obvious theories first - no, I have not converted to Islam, and no, I am not in chemo. I'm still a happy and healthy pagan. So why?
Something about it is soothing to me. Something about it feels right. I do not believe in plain dress or female modesty for religious or moral reasons, I'm still the sex-positive femme you've come to know and love. At least a few times this summer I was wearing a tiny little sundress and a big scarf on my head. Something about it feels protective, sheltering of myself in a way that I can't explain.
I found one blog post from another pagan woman saying that she found "covering" to be very spiritual. That thrilled me but I have not yet found a spiritual dimension. Do people look at me differently? Yes. Why, what does it mean? I don't know. What does it mean to me? I don't know. But I like it, so I will probably keep doing it, on a part-time basis. I've been meaning to mention it, but it's hard to make a whole post out of not understanding your own feelings, so I included it here since it's on-topic.
Amal has just made what she feels is the biggest decision of her young life. Rather than wearing a hijab part-time - to mosque, to her private Islamic school, and on bad hair days - she has decided to "go full-time." She will cover her entire body except her face and hands whenever she is with people who are not members of her immediate family. But how will her parents react? What about the administration of her new snooty private school? And what about The Boy, Adam, object of her first-ever crush?
This book is funny and touching. The author sure does get what it's like to be in high school, no doubt about that. I find it charming that she writes on this topic but that the picture on her website shows her hair uncovered. It made it seem even less like one-true-way-ism than it already did. I liked it and it would be a good read for anyone interested in multicultural issues for teenagers.