A Map of Home – Randa Jarrar
From the back cover –
Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Europe (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraqi invasion) and her family’s last flight to Texas. Nidali mixes humor with a sharp, vibrant portrait of an eccentric middle-class family, and this perspective keeps her buoyant through the hardships she encounters: the humiliation of going through a checkpoint on a visit to her father’s home in the West Bank; to the end of her childhood as Iraq invades Kuwait on her thirteenth birthday; and the scare she gives her family when she runs away from home.
Funny, charming, and breathtaking, A Map of Home is the kind of book Tristam Shandy or Huck Finn would have narrated had they been born Egyptian-Palestinian and female in the 1970s.
My thoughts –
I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers Program, and I really enjoyed it. I’m so glad that after my previous Early Reviewers experience I did not decide to give up on this wonderful way of receiving new books! This novel was very well-written, with a compelling and interesting narrator that I really got to know throughout the book. It is basically your standard coming-of-age story, except instead of being a “normal” teenager with “average” problems, Nidali is half Palestinian, half Egyptian, and her most prominent growing-up years are spent in three very different countries, during a hugely significant time in our world’s history. My favorite thing about the novel was, most definitely, Nidali herself. She was so authentic, in her dealings with her incredibly strict father, her worries about fitting in with American teenagers, and her first experiences with boys and sex she came across as such a real person – I liked her personality, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her as she navigated her way through her teenage years.
The story itself was interesting, as Jarrar focused on life in the three different countries that Nidali grew up in you really got a feel for how different each one was from the others. There was some history sprinkled in too – mostly about Iraq in the 1990’s – which helped to more firmly ground the story in the reality of that time. The fact that a teenage girl was telling the story (fictional, of course) of how she lived through that period of time illuminated the situation a little bit for me, and I really liked that aspect of this book.
I’d really recommend reading this one!
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