Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Does My Head Look Big in This?

Does My Head Look Big in This?
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Orchard Books, 2007

“It hit me when I was power walking on the treadmill at home, watching a Friends rerun for about the ninetieth time. . . . I was ready to wear the hajib. That’s right. Rachel from Friends inspired me. The sheikhs will be holding emergency conferences.”(p. 1-2)

For most intents and purposes, Amal is a normal eleventh-grade Australian girl. She has close friends, she loves to shop, she worries about her self-image, and she is Muslim, in fact, the only Muslim girl in her private school. So the whole idea of wearing the veil full-time is a big deal to her. It immediately identifies her as someone who is different, and especially in this post-September 11 world, that’s not an easy thing.

Mrs. Walsh, the principal at Amal’s school allows her to wear the veil, but is not enthusiastic about it:
“Amal, I hope you appreciate that this is something . . .rather novel. I respect your decision and your right to practice your faith, but you do look different now, dear. I don’t want you to interpret this incorrectly but I hope you realize that I am going out of my way to accommodate you.” (p. 60)

Fortunately, Amal’s friends are quite supportive. Amal is very capable of standing up to those who want to make fun of her. She also faces the same issues that any girl her age faces: Does she lie to her parents to go to a party where there will be alcohol? Does she kiss the boy she’s had a crush on? What does she do when her best friend runs away? Amal’s faith is very evident throughout the book and she uses it to help with decisions she has to make. That’s not to say that she doesn’t make mistakes – she does – which means that she is a perfectly normal teenager. And that’s the point of the whole book. Just because Amal is Muslim and decides to wear the hajib doesn’t mean that she’s not a normal teenager with the same wants and desires as any teenager.

As time goes on and Amal becomes more comfortable with her decision, she realizes that "I’ve been kidding myself. Putting on the hajib isn’t the end of the journey. It’s just the beginning of it." (p. 333)

I can’t begin to say how much I loved this book. Although none of the students at my school are Muslim (at least not this year), many can identify with what it’s like to be different and this book will be perfect for them.

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