Book of the month: Randa Jarrar’s A Map of Home

There was a lot that confused me. Why were there so many commercials on TV? In Kuwait and Egypt there was a commercial segment and you could opt not to watch it. What exactly was daylight saving time? And did it mean I had to stay at school an extra hour? What was a tag sale? Why would anyone want to buy a tag? What was homecoming? Was it something political, because everyone was asking me to vote for a Queen? What was Memorial Day? Veterans Day? Why were there so many special days? Where was the call to prayer? I didn’t hear it anywhere. I had a friend who once lived by the airport, and when she moved she couldn’t stand the absence of airplane sounds. That’s what was happening to me then, but instead of airplane sounds, I was missing a hundred different things from “home”, and the sad part was, I was starting to forget what they were and where home really was. (221)

Our book recommendation of the month is Randa Jarrar’s A Map of Home, her first published, remarkable debut and award-winning fiction novel. Published in 2008, this amusing and heart-warming novel depicts the life of an estranged Egyptian, Palestinian, and Kuwaiti Muslim girl named Nidali who was born in Boston, America and moved back to Kuwait, forced to flee to Egypt, then on to Texas. All she wanted was to find a place to call home and to feel like she belonged somewhere. Will she manage to do so?

The novel is divided into twenty chapters, from the day she was born until the day she set out to start her new journey in America. As I was reading Randa Jarrar’s biography, the story resonated even more with me. It made it more alive and vigorous since it projects some parts of her life. Moving was part of both Jarrar’s and Nidal’s lives and a ‘part of being Palestinian’ (9). Therefore, questioning their identity, their sense of self, and their existence was indispensable.
Being born in America and not knowing how it actually feels like to live there aroused Nidali’s curiosity and fear. She was intrigued. Yet, afraid of not fitting in, of having to start all over again. Additionally, I liked the fact that Nidali was portrayed as this smart, rebellious, studious, and knowledge seeking girl. This goes without saying that Arab American women often go through similar experiences, and their narratives act as their resistance.
This coming of age story was certainly relishing, eye opening, hilarious at times, and heartbreaking at others. I wouldn’t want to spoil it by giving too much detail. Hence, I highly recommend reading it.

 

Jarrar, Randa 2008. A Map of Home. London: Penguin Books.


ichraqchadli

BA in Cultural and Literary Studies. MA in Advanced English Studies: Languages and Cultures in Contact. PhD candidate. My fields of interests are: Postcolonial Studies, Cultural Studies, and Arab-American Studies.

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