Amal is a normal sixteen-year-old girl. She loves fashion, TV-shows, and going shopping with her friends. But she is also committed to her faith and despite the difficulty she knows she will endure, has decided to start wearing the Islamic hijab full-time.
Randa Abdel-Fattah does a really great job educating her target audience that Islam in its purest form is not oppressive to women. So in that regard, I have to say that this is a perfectly-timed narrative given the fear and the hate-mongering that Muslims living in Western countries must feel. However, I thought story itself and the juxtaposition of educating her audience about Islam needed to be a little more seamless. The whole thing reeked of desperation at times. I never felt like I could relax into the story and just enjoy the characters because every scene felt like one big lesson for the ignorant non-Muslims out there who don't know any better.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the sentiment behind the story and I really think the author has done a service to non-Muslim teens by writing this book and helping to squash some huge misconceptions; I guess I just wish it hadn't been done in such an "in your face" manner.
Even so, this is a worthwhile read and proves to everyone that there are wackadoos and hate-filled people in every religion. Abdel-Fattah makes the perfect case that terrorists speak for Islam as much as the Ku Klux Klan speaks for Christianity. There will always be people that manipulate the beliefs of a religion to promote hate. Intelligent, open-minded people should know better than to let that hatred be their one-dimensional view of a religion.
I remember a few years ago the 6th-8th grade at the Catholic school where I teach visited a mosque. I still get choked up when I think about the beauty of that moment and what it did to open hearts and minds of students, parents, and teachers. Some of my own prejudices about Islam had been squelched that day. It was a moment in my life that affected me deeply and will be forever burned in my memory. I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience something like that. It might change a lot of minds.
So having gone through that experience and despite my critical view of this book, I understand the reason and the passion for why Randa Abdel-Fattah wrote it. She's hoping that all those young people who pick it up will have an experience even the tiniest bit similar to that life-changing one I had sitting in that mosque five years ago.
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fatttah
Published: May 2007
Publisher: Orchard Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Disclosure: Library copy