Monday, November 30, 2009

Review by Shellie: A Map of Home – A Novel by Randa Jarrar



In this wonderful, humorous, and powerful story - Nidali is a strong teen caught between self discovery, and the constraints of war within a culture where women are subjected to very confining roles. The story opens with her “Baba" hoping for a the birth of a boy, due to his awareness of the difficulties facing women in Kuwait. In doing so he accidently names her Nidal. When realizing she is a girl, he adds an i creating Nidali, the narrator’s name.

Born in America from an Egyptian and Greek mother and a Palestinian father Nidali’s roots are as complex and ethnically diverse as the middle east itself. When the family moves back to Kuwait in the volatile 80’s from American, they will eventually be forced to leave again. Eventually they will immigrate back to America, confusing and complicating the question of where exactly is home?

Here is a quote which sums the title up of A Map of Home. After leaving Kuwait, Nidali has drawn a map of Palestine while sitting at the family table while talking with her father:

“You still remember that?” I nodded and looked at the map nervously, hesitant about whether I’d drawn it right. I pointed at the western border and asked, “Is that right?” “Who knows,” he said, waving his hand dismissively …

“What do you mean, Baba when you say ‘who knows’?”

“Oh habibti. That map is from a certain year. The maps that came earlier looked different. And the ones that come after, ever more different.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean… there’s no telling. There’s no telling where home starts and where it ends.”

Hilarious and thought provoking A Map of Home is a down to earth insight into the complexities of middle eastern cultures. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a mostly lighthearted view on difficult and often misunderstood subjects – war and who are our middle Eastern neighbors. I give this book 4 Stars.

This is book is included in the Women Unbound challenge. I love wonderful strong and complex characters – Nadali is!


This book also has secondary elements which make it available for inclusion in The GLBT 2009 Challenge. These elements are of sexual exploration and the recognition of bisexual tendencies.

glbt2 For more information on A Map of Home, purchasing information, and the author Randa Jarrar please see the preview post of the book linked on the title.


susan said...

I loved this book. I read it recently as well. I could kick myself for not putting up a review yet. Glad to hear you enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

Susan -
It was wonderful. I love strong women characters.

I liked the Arabic words - I had a boyfriend who was Arabic for several years - years ago.

I would love to see a review from you.... go for it!

susan said...

Will definitely get one up. I just posted my first for the challenge. I reviewed Ash by Malinda Lo.

I have a new layout. A little anxious about it. Hope visitors like it.

Unknown said...

Susan -
I am sure its great.

Ash is the GLBT Cinderella story right?

I'm off to check it out right now.

Unknown said...

Susan -
Lay out is great, simple and doesn't distract from the message.
Great review as well.

Stephanie said...

This sounds excellent! I enjoy strong female heroines, too, and I love books that take me into other cultures.

Unknown said...

Stephanie -
This is a book about what feels like a real person. She has quirks and strengths. She experiments beyond cultural standards. Its wonderful. It gives you hope about women whom have and live in such difficult areas, and ourselves as well. Besides that its funny and quirky.

Thanks for the comment. :)

Felicity Grace Terry said...

Sounds like an informative read that isn't too heavy going. Thanks for the review.

Unknown said...

Petty Witter -
Yes exactly!
Your welcome and thanks to the publisher for sending it to me or I probably would have just skipped over it. :)

Aarti said...

This sounds really good- and funny in a very true and poignant way. Great pick for Women Unbound!

Unknown said...

Aarti -
You will love this book... :)
Thanks for commenting.

Unknown said...

I do not read enough books about Middle eastern culture or history. I may just try this one out as a good beginning.

Unknown said...

Lily -
I think you would like this one. It will be interesting to see what you do think. :)

Color Online said...

Hi Shellie,

I've linked your review for Color Me Brown Links.

Michelle (su[shu]) said...

This book sounds interesting. I especially like that quote you pulled out, regarding how maps of Palestine have changed so much over the course of time. I'm always eager to read about the Middle East, and this book here feels like a good way to start.

Unknown said...

Color Online (Cora?) -
Thanks so much for linking my review. I hope it helps spread the word about this really great book. :)

Michelle -
Yes, this is really a great way to start. The heavy bits are mixed with the main characters strength and it doesn't feel like your reading some history or war book... it made me want to do some research about the situation to understand it further. Highly recommended!

Thanks for the comments, I also apologize for their late post ... both got lost in a huge pile of emails not sure how????

Color Online said...


You are our Women Unbound random book prize winner for December. You may choose a book prize from our Prize Bucket.

Unknown said...

Color Online -

I will be right over to comment and says thanks. :)

JoV said...

I'll check this out. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

Unknown said...

JoV -
I hope you can find it in the UK? without too much trouble. Its just a few hundred pages.

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