by Randa Jarrar
USA. 304 pages. 2008.
Jarrar’s sparkling debut about an audacious Muslim girl growing up in Kuwait, Egypt and Texas is intimate, perceptive and very, very funny.
Nidali Ammar is born in Boston to a Greek-Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father, and moves to Kuwait at a very young age, staying there until she’s 13, when Iraq invades. A younger brother is born in Kuwait, rounding out a family of complex citizenships. During the occupation, the family flees to Alexandria in a wacky caravan, bribing soldiers along the way with whiskey and silk ties. But they don’t stay long in Egypt, and after the war, Nidali’s father finds work in Texas. At first, Nidali is disappointed to learn that feeling rootless doesn’t make her an outsider in the States, and soon it turns out the precocious and endearing Arab chick isn’t very different from other American girls, a reality that only her father may find difficult to accept.
Jarrar explores familiar adolescent ground—stifling parental expectations, precarious friendships, sensuality and first love—but her exhilarating voice and flawless timing make this a standout.
About the author
Randa Jarrar is a novelist, short story writer, and translator. A Map of Home, her critically acclaimed debut novel, won the 2009 Arab American Book Award as well as the Hopwood and Geoffrey James Gosling Awards at the University of Michigan, where Jarrar received her MFA. The novel will also be published in Taiwan, Germany, Israel, China, and Italy.
Jarrar was born in Chicago, but grew up in Kuwait and Egypt until returning to the U.S. after the first Gulf War. She entered Sarah Lawrence College at 16, became a single mom at 18, and by the age of 22 had a Masters’ degree, her four- year-old, and a desire to write a novel.
Jarrar’s short story, You Are A 14-Year-Old Arab Chick Who Just Moved to Texas, won the Million Writers Award and has been widely anthologized. Her other award-winning short stories have appeared in the Oxford American, Ploughshares, Hunger Mountain, and Duck and Herring, as well as other online and printed anthologies.
Jarrar is also a translator of Arabic fiction, with publications that include Hassan Daoud’s novel The Year of the Revolutionary New Breadmaking Machine. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she is working on a collection of stories and a new novel about a young single mother and her magical son.
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