BY RANDA JARRAR
Randa Jarrar has written a book that can be simply described as a coming of age story in which the main character, Nidali's, many travels result in a map of home that she actually carries inside her and she reconstructs this map at every turn as her life moves ahead. The one thing that author Randa Jarrar does the best is allow the story to be told by the narrator in an honest and very funny manner. This friendly narration draws the reader in and makes them begin to feel for the girl as her actions often are not the right ones, but allows us to cheer when they are correct. This honest narrative is what made me care about the main character and become immersed in her witty and wise story.
A MAP OF HOME is Randa Jarrar's debut novel and due to her own international upbringing, she is able to provide a valid support in her creation of Nidali. Nidali is born in America, grows up in Kuwait and then following the war, is forced to relocate to Egypt. Following more difficulties, she returns to America to live in Texas all while barely turning 16. Throughout this confusing and ever changing time, Nidali is forced to think about herself in the light of different cultures as well as nationalities and in order to be able to even try to understand her family and herself. It is a very confused mind that is created out of all this.
When the war ends, Baba is told he can't go back to Kuwait because he is Palestinian. It is at this point that Nidali finds herself back in the United States living in Texas as Baba finds work and sends for the family to come join him. Imagine Nidali's reaction when they wind up in a trailer home. However, Nidali makes it through school, and her mother puts up with odd customs and treatment including always being asked if she speaks Spanish!
As the old and the new cultures are so contrasting, the story ends in Nidali's need to decide between staying with her family or moving into yet another landscape for college. This is a story that begs for a sequel and if you are like me, you get so caught up in Nidali's story, told so masterfully through this narrative style by Jarar, that you care about what happens to her in her next phase of her life. I found this to be an easy read, that held my interest and made me laugh out loud many times...not at Nidali and her situation but rather, with her.
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