Excerpt from The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Girl Who Fell to Earth

A Memoir

by Sophia Al-Maria

The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria X
The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback:
    Nov 2012, 288 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

The following is the sequence of programming on Dhahran TV as remembered by Matar. The schedule, from what he understood, was calibrated by the Saudi Aramco Oil Company. At the time he was moved into the Kuzahmiah settlement, it ran something like this:

18:00—Looney Tunes or Popeye. Olive Oyl was translated into Arabic as Zeitoonah, and this is what Matar nicknamed his lanky, cow-hocked older sister Moody.

18:30—Children's hour: Mr. Ed, Lassie, or both. A few years later came Little House on the Prairie, which was a runaway hit. The settling traumas of the Ingalls girls struck a chord with Bedu kids being relocated to villages like Kuzahmiah from scattered camps that had been caught in the drill lights of oil derricks. 19:30—News, with auspicious tidings of the king's good health as the lead item; once Matar remembers seeing American astronauts bouncing on the moon.

20:00—Asha prayer, more Quran.

20:15—Perry Mason, Rawhide, or Star Trek. Being the town Trekkie, Matar kept particularly detailed anthropological notes of the alien tribes and cultures in the show.

21:30—An Egyptian comedy, an Indian musical, or an American western.

But the imam usually cut the generator early, whether or not the film had ended. Even though the imam was an intelligent and educated young man, he was also deeply suspicious of the television broadcasts. Were they meant to make Al-Dafira children prize the deserts of America over their own? The crowd of kids would groan in such bitter disappointment when the cowboys lost. And he resented that the children had to watch Robert Mitchum stride into a saloon, gulp a shot of whiskey, and then growl in classical Arabic: "Hey, partner, thanks for the cold tea, I needed it." The broadcast would fizzle into static with cool finality and the imam would break the gathering of sleepy kids, wading through the pool of boys and girls, long braids spread over bare feet, and send them home. The older kids usually took his cue out of respect and slung their younger siblings onto their hips to leave. But while they scattered into the dark doorways of their homes to dream of cowboys and border collies, Matar remained stubbornly in front of the TV fantasizing about space travel. He furiously noted all the action down in blue graphite. It was only when he caught a glimpse of the imam's reflection smoldering from the darkened screen that Matar would rise and shuffle reluctantly along the treads of the one truck in town to his home. As he stumbled along the dark path strewn with goat turds, he often saw, through bleary eyes, a faceless figure float toward him. It would bounce in the dust, as weightless as a man on the moon. This khayal, or shadow, followed him, keeping watch from behind its mirrored visor, a mask that reflected a bowed version of Matar's world back to him, letting him see things he couldn't alone. But the khayal always disappeared when he reached the standard-issue government hut where his family slept. Then Matar would crawl into his bed of wool blankets and jumbled siblings and stare up through a crack in the ceiling just wide enough for him to make out a few weak stars.

Matar was old enough to remember a time before his clan had gotten situated into settled life. Back then, their nights were longer. He had spent very little time with his father, Jabir, who was a wilderness detective for the police and had become famous for his tracking abilities. Able to tell if a missing woman was pregnant by her footprints and to intuit the moves of a criminal on the run "like a hawk to a snake in the open," Jabir was the last of his kind. Matar had managed to pick up some practical desert skills from his father—which cracks in the sand might bare truffles, as well as more uncanny skills, like how to tell a storm was coming by the patterns in the sand. But all matters to do with the sky he learned from his mother, Safya.

Excerpted from The Girl Who Fell to Earth by Sophia Al-Maria. Copyright © 2012 by Sophia Al-Maria. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Electric Woman
    The Electric Woman
    by Tessa Fontaine
    In 2010, author Tessa Fontaine's mother had a near-fatal hemorrhagic stroke, leaving her with a...
  • Book Jacket: The Female Persuasion
    The Female Persuasion
    by Meg Wolitzer
    A college freshman struggling for identity. A 1960s feminist icon attempting to maintain her ...
  • Book Jacket: A Lucky Man
    A Lucky Man
    by Jamel Brinkley
    If his debut collection of short stories, A Lucky Man is any indicator, Jamel Brinkley is poised on ...
  • Book Jacket: Picture Us In The Light
    Picture Us In The Light
    by Kelly Loy Gilbert
    Kelly Loy Gilbert presents a beautiful narrative with myriad intertwined plotlines that explores the...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd

A captivating thriller-at-sea set in Spanish colonial Havana in the 1860s.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Anatomy of a Miracle
    by Jonathan Miles

    A stunning novel that offers an exploration of faith, science and the meaning of life.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Comedown

The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin

A blistering dark comedy that explores delineating lines of race, class, religion, and time.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Wouldn't T H W A T-F P

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.