Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Nidali opens with the story of her birth and says, Baba realized that
he didnt know my sex for sure but that didnt matter; hed always known I
was a boy. How does the fact that Nidali is female affect her relationship
with her father? Do you think Waheed would have been as hard on her if she
had been a boy? Examine the dynamics of this father-daughter relationship.
- Nidali grows up in several different countries. What do you learn about
adolescence from her varied perspective? Is it a universal experience?
- Examine the several passages in which Nidali reflects on the idea of
home and what it means to her. How does she define home? Is it a concept or
something more concrete? What does the title refer to?
- When Nidalis religious cousin Esam comes to visit, he throws away her
Wonder Woman stickers, proclaiming the character looks like a naked
heathen and a shameless prostitute. Nidali looks at the remains of the
stickers and says, These white spots were, to me, parts of God. What role
does religion play in Nidalis childhood? Does it change or evolve as she
- Consider the different settings in the novel--Kuwait, Egypt, and Texas.
Where do you think the Ammar family is the most content? Find instances when
Jarrar weaves historical events into the plot and discuss the different ways
her characters are affected by them.
- Nidali writes a letter to Sadam Hussein to complain about the Iraqi
invasion and how it is ruining her life. What does this reveal about Nidali?
About the connection between the personal and the political?
- Nidalis parents each live with the disappointment that they gave up
their dream careers: Waheed never became a great poet and Ruz never became a
concert pianist. How does each parent deal with this regret? How do their
failures affect Nidali and her own hopes for the future?
- Nidali chronicles her familys new life in America in the chapter The
Shit No One Bothered to Tell Us. What is the effect of her ironic
commentary in these vignettes? How does Nidali portray her new home? Does
she find anything positive in Texas?
- Waheed is a complex character, capable of extreme compassion and love as
well as quick-tempered anger and abuse. Do you ever sympathize with Waheed?
What are the driving forces of his behavior?
- Nidalis sexual awakening is a significant part of her adolescence. From
her first boyfriend Fakhr in Kuwait to her high-school crush Medina in
Texas, Nidali goes through a range of joyous and unpleasant experiences.
Compare and contrast these encounters. How does she react to heartbreak? To
- Growing up, Nidali is fascinated by her family history. In what ways
does family history affect an individual life? How is Nidali shaped by those
events in her family that occurred before her birth?
- Does Waheeds acceptance of Nidalis final act of rebellion--going to
the forbidden fruit college in Boston-- show he is finally ready to let
go? Is his change of heart a reaction to his recent experiences as an
immigrant is the U.S. or is it in keeping with his long-standing
relationship with Nidali? Is this a fitting ending?
- The book opens with Waheed holding a pen, and ends with Ruz throwing one
out the window, and Nidali catching it. What role does writing play in the
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.