Monday, February 15, 2016
Review: Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publisher: Pan Australia
Publication Date: 1 August 2005
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
The slide opened and I heard a gentle, kind voice: What is your confession, my child?
I was stuffed. The Priest would declare me a heretic; my parents would call me a traitor...
The Priest asked me again: What is your confession, my child?
I'm Muslim. I whispered.
Welcome to my world. I'm Amal Abdel-Hakim, a seventeen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim still trying to come to grips with my various identity hyphens.
It's hard enough being cool as a teenager when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo is enough to disqualify you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil on your head and practicing the bum's up position at lunchtime and you know you're in for a tough time at school.
Luckily my friends support me, although they've got a few troubles of their own. Simone, blonde, gorgeous and overweight – she's got serious image issues, and Leila's really intelligent but her parents are more interested in her getting a marriage certificate than her high school certificate!
And I thought I had problems... (summary from Goodreads)
Does My Head Look Big in This? is a funny and thoughtful read.
This is one of those books I want to buy multiple copies of and give to everyone I know in the hopes they read it. I can't believe I've only just read it now. Abdel-Fattah tackles a lot of huge issues - religion, racism, stereotypes, self-esteem, bullying, friendship, family, terrorism - and she does so with humour and grace. These are seriously hot button topics, relevant even more so today, and Abdel-Fattah is able to illustrate them in a light yet serious way. Overall Does My Head Look Big in This? may be a fun read, but it's not fluff. It's truly thought-provoking, emotional and powerful. Amal's story is one any reader can relate to on some level, be touched by, and hopefully even changed by. Her outlook on life and religion, her faith, her courage, is something to aspire to. I'm not a religious person but I have beliefs and faith and I liked the portrayal of Amal's faith the most. She is not defined by religion, she defines it for herself. Many of the characters do, choosing how they honour their faith, and it's beautiful. I loved how Abdel-Farrah defines and obliterates stereotypes, allowing us to question our own. This is a lesson we constantly need to learn and Does My Head Look Big in This? is a must read for that. It's forthright and honest. Abdel-Farrah's writing style took a little getting used to and may not be to every reader's liking. It reads as Amal's internalised monologue, like she's talking directly to us, somewhat jumpy and fast paced and at times I found it a little too much. But the story itself hugely outweighs that struggle, so by the end I was barely noticing.
Amal is a truly inspiring character. Does My Head Look Big in This? isn't just a story about a Muslim Australian girl. It's a story about a teenage girl growing up, learning her place in the world, and choosing her own path. Amal is sarcastic, smart and larger than life. Her personality leaps off the page. I really felt for her every struggle and every triumph. Her relationships with her friends and family really shine. Her friends are all so different, with their own issues and stories, and the way they are all there for each other is wonderful. Their stories affect Amal's and vice versa. I like that - that even though Amal is our main character and narrator, the obstacles the secondary characters face have just as much influence. So much of what Leila, Yasmeen, Simone, Eileen and Adam experience made this book. And Mrs Vaselli. I loved her and her story. Does My Head Look Big in This? is as much about the people in Amal's life as it is Amal. Amal's parents are very present too and their firmness, support and acceptance brought something so affirming to this novel. And I must say - no romance! Sure, Amal has a bit of a crush on Adam but her belief is no 'hanky panky' before marriage and it was great to read. The friendship between her and Adam, the ups and downs of that, is every bit as awesome as any swoon-worthy romance.
Abdel-Fattah has written a hilarious, touching, thought-provoking, inspiring and just plain wonderful, must read!