Summary and book reviews of A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

A Map of Home

by Randa Jarrar

A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar X
A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2008, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2009, 305 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby
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About this Book

Book Summary

Nidali narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt, and her family’s last flight to Texas, offering a humorous, sharp but loving portrait of an eccentric middle-class family.

Nidali, the rebellious daughter of an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, narrates the story of her childhood in Kuwait, her teenage years in Egypt (to where she and her family fled the 1990 Iraqi invasion), and her family’s last flight to Texas. Nidali mixes humor with a sharp, loving portrait of an eccentric middle-class family, and this perspective keeps her buoyant through the hardships she encounters: the humiliation of going through a checkpoint on a visit to her father’s home in the West Bank; the fights with her father, who wants her to become a famous professor and stay away from boys; the end of her childhood as Iraq invades Kuwait on her thirteenth birthday; and the scare she gives her family when she runs away from home.

Funny, charming, and heartbreaking, A Map of Home is the kind of book Tristram Shandy or Huck Finn would have narrated had they been born Egyptian-Palestinian and female in the 1970s.

Sixteen:
The Shit No One Bothered To Tell Us

1.
Our second year in America, approaching our third, and Baba still comes back from work on a bus.  He hates the city.  He likes the bus.  It is efficient and cool and clean.  The bus races through neighborhoods and picks up people in uniform.  Baba smells his hands when the bus stops at our neighborhood.  He burrows them in his coat.  The weather is odd and Texan; it is hot; it is cold; and Baba loves it, because it is like him and can't decide which one it wants to be, or even if it wants to stay or leave. Baba wants to build his own house.  He has visited fourteen banks and their loan agents all flip through his paperwork and remind him of the soldiers at the Allenby bridge.  They read it quickly and send him off.  He has to build his credit before he can build a house, they say.  He applies for more credit cards.  He buys Mama an Olds, and pays for ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Nidali opens with the story of her birth and says, “Baba realized that he didn’t know my sex for sure but that didn’t matter; he’d 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.
     
  2. Nidali grows up in several different countries. What do you learn about adolescence from her varied perspective? Is it a universal experience?
     
  3. 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 ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Coming-of-age themes are common, but the intelligent narration provides more than enough interest to sustain the momentum. Rare is the book that makes one stay up to finish it; this is one of them, simultaneously circling in its family dramas and spiraling outwards in its connections to history and place. Adult and teen readers alike would enjoy Nidali's honest portrayal. She's the Muslim equivalent of J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, tender, caustic and wise in all the right moments...continued

Full Review (669 words).

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(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

Media Reviews

Dallas Morning News
A Map of Home promises to tell us about Arab culture as we never knew it. And using young Nidali as our guide, it does, giving us a multifaceted portrayal of the Arab world.

The Star-Ledger
Jarrar has endowed her narrator with an ear attuned to every note of family farce… Nidali's odyssey is as serious as it is comic and deeply moving. During the Bing Crosby-era, this tale of growing up absurd would have been compared to 'Catcher in the Rye,' and deservedly so. It's as achingly coming-of-age as it gets, as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking — like growing up.

Booklist
Jarrar is sophisticated and deft, and her impressive debut is especially intriguing considering her clever use of recent Middle East history.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Her exhilarating voice and flawless timing make this a standout

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A coming-of-age story that's both singular and universal - an outstanding debut.

Library Journal - Sarah Conrad Weisman
This wonderfully engaging work has vivid descriptions of the different places Nidali lives and the culture she grows up in; the only negative is that the novel is perhaps unnecessarily laced with strong language, which may make it less universally appealing. Highly recommended.

Reader Reviews

Kim

Wonderful comingofage novel
I think finding a well written coming of age novel that features a female protagonist is a rare event. Most of those I've read in this genre have had a sacharine-sweet lack of realism that has left me less than enthusiastic about the story. A Map ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Arabic Music

Arabic Music is influenced by a history of conquest and contact with numerous countries including but not limited to Greece, Medieval Europe and Turkey. Elements of Arabic music can also be found in non-Arabic countries. A few common characteristics are the connection between music and poetry, and the use of maqamat. In Arabic music, a maqam (plural maqamat) is a set of notes. The nearest equivalent in Western classical music would be a mode.

Traditional instruments include:

  • Oud: A round-bodied stringed instrument without frets (watch & listen)
  • Violin: The European violin (also called Kaman/Kamanjah) was adopted into Arab music during the 19th century, replacing an indigenous two-string fiddle that was prevalent in Egypt.
  • Qanun: A ...

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