Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SLIS 5420 - Module 7 - Does My Head Look Big in This?

Module 7 - Does My Head Look Big in This? - Ramda Abdel-Fatah

Abdel-Fatah, Ramda. Does My Head Look Big in This?  Orchard Books, 2005. ISBN: 978-0-439-91947-0

Amal Mohamed Nasrulla Abdel-Hakim is a junior in high school in Melbourne,  Australia. The story is set in 2002 and Amal has made a very important decision: like her mother and one of her friends, she has decided to wear the Muslim head scarf, the hijab, full time. The story starts with this decision and shows how her friends, family and peers react to her decision. Amal has other concerns, too: boys, friendship, faith and grades. It's a fun, fast-paced read and good chick-lit.

What I thought
Amal is a very engaging narrator. I connected with her right away and learned a lot about "real" Muslims, as opposed to the media's sensational depiction of those who follow Islam. Amal's faith is important to her, but so are her grades and her friendships. She is a smart, funny, sharp young woman. Some of the best parts of the book are Amal's sarcastic quips to enemies and ignorant peers. Her relationships with her family, friends and neighbors is very interesting and enlightening. Amal is a person I would like to know and I also would love to meet her friends and family. All of the characters in the story are interesting, quirky and memorable.

Amal is a good ambassador for her faith. She is strong and while she isn't perfect, she does try to respect other's beliefs, and wants others to respect hers. Sometimes she doesn't succeed and finds herself too judgmental, but she learns from her mistakes. I learned a lot about Islam. Many people think that the Koran and Muslim faith is supposed to keep women down. Amal showed me that her faith does not hamper her or other strong women in their ability to be what they wants to be in the world. I learned a lot about Islam in a non-confrontational, fun way. In a post 9/11 world, it's important for all of us to learn to understand each other, and this book is a great teacher.

Outside reviews

"With an engaging narrator at the helm, Abdel-Fattah's debut novel should open the eyes of many a reader.  Headstrong and witty, 16-year-old Amal, an Australian-Muslim-Palestinian ("That means I was born an Aussie and whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens") decides during winter break from her posh private school that she's ready to wear the hijab, the Muslim head scarf, fulltime, as a testament to her faith.  Amal knows she will face discrimination by classmates and misinformed people but she is committed to her decision; her parents are initially concerned, but ultimately rally behind her. Their worries, in fact, are well-founded:  Amal attracts her share of stares and taunts both at school and around town, but she finds strength, not only from her convictions, but from her close-knit group of friends, who for various reasons--being Japanese, Jewish, nerdy or body-conscious--are perceived as being outside "the norm." As Amal struggles with her identity in a post-9/11 world ("Do you have any idea how it feels to be me, a Muslim, today? I mean, just turn on the television, open a newspaper.… It feels like I'm drowning in it all"), her faith--and an array of ever-ready quips--help her navigate an often-unforgiving world.  Using a winning mix of humor and sensitivity, Abdel-Fattah ably demonstrates that her heroine is, at heart, a teen like any other. This debut should speak to anyone who has felt like an outsider for any reason."

(2007). Does My Head Look Big in This?. Publishers Weekly, 254(21), 56. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

"With Does My Head Look Big In This, Abel-Fattah has not only taken the typical chick lit genre to a new level, but she also filled it with a number of uniquely drawn characters, such as Amal's aunt and uncle who have militantly assimilated into Australian culture with their gift shop-looking living room and the polar opposite aunt and uncle who are bound and determined to arrange their daughter's marriage. And most memorable is the Greek neighbor; Amal befriends the prickly woman and slowly learns of her sad life story. But for the teen girls who will surely enjoy this book, there are a good many annoying snobs, smart-yet-sensitive boys, and girls with the body and identity issues thrown in to round out the group. Abdel-Fattah has effectively managed to create a book that, like in the style of the short-lived television show My  So-Called Life, would appeal both to teens and their parents (although with the pretty shiny polka dots on the cover, I predict that mainly teens will be attracted to it)."

Waters, J. (2007). Does My Head Look Big in This?. CM: Canadian Review of Materials, 14(7), 9. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.

Using this book in the library
This book would be a great book club pick. It has so many different topics that would be fun to discuss. It also helps people learn to understand and respect people who are different from them. The theme of tolerance and understanding is threaded throughout the book.

For more information and an enjoyable read:

An interview with Randa Abdel-Fattah

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