When Sophia Al-Maria's mother sends her away from rainy Washington State to stay with her husband's desert-dwelling Bedouin family in Qatar, she intends it to be a sort of teenage cultural boot camp. What her mother doesn't know is that there are some things about growing up that are universal. In Qatar, Sophia is faced with a new world she'd only imagined as a child. She sets out to find her freedom, even in the most unlikely of places.
Both family saga and coming-of-age story, The Girl Who Fell to Earth takes readers from the green valleys of the Pacific Northwest to the dunes of the Arabian Gulf and on to the sprawling chaos of Cairo. Struggling to adapt to her nomadic lifestyle, Sophia is haunted by the feeling that she is perpetually in exile: hovering somewhere between two families, two cultures, and two worlds. She must make a place for herselfa complex journey that includes finding young love in the Arabian Gulf, rebellion in Cairo, and, finally, self-discovery in the mountains of Sinai.
The Girl Who Fell to Earth heralds the arrival of an electric new talent and takes us on the most personal of quests: the voyage home.
Time spent in the Gulf has changed Sophia Al-Maria. She is now an inhabitant of two distinct worlds, a member of two families, and keenly aware of her otherness. When her teenage rebellion is too much for her mother, Al-Maria is sent to live with the women of her family in Doha where, though she wears an abaya (long, "cloak-like dress") and a shala, (long, black head scarf) she discovers freedom. (Reviewed by Jo Perry).
A satisfying trek through a complex cross-cultural landscape toward a creative and satisfying life.
Starred Review. An Arab-American Woman's riveting coming-of-age story. What makes Al-Maria's story unique is not only its rare insider's glimpse of modern Bedouin life, but the outsider's sensibility that magnifies her exquisite observational gifts, Frank, funny and dauntless.
Changing Bedouin Life as Exemplified by the Al-Maria Family
Bedouin life has been slowly changing from a traditional nomadic existence to a more settled permanent one. Al-Maria's family effectively illustrates this transition.
Al-Maria adjusts to her Bedouin family's ancient way of life precisely at the same time that its members must adjust to modernity. The family had been experiencing what Al-Maria describes as "a long, slow retreat into the concrete domesticity of modern sedentary life." Not all is bad: "Compared with the poverty they were used to on their travels, not having to carry your weight in water was positively luxuriant."
But convenience has a price, paid largely by the women. The style of dress changed, for one thing. Bedouin girls in the family used to wear bright calico dresses without full-body veils. Where they used only to cover their faces they now covered their whole bodies in black, a new custom to protect their honor (and identities) now that they lived in closer proximity to neighbors with "forked tongues."
The Al-Dafira tribe, which Al-Maria's family belongs to, had a difficult...
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