Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publication Year: 2010
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: 1 ARC Tours
From the cover:
Thirteen-year-old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother’s ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab’s life. The only problem is Hayaat and her family live in Bethlehem, behind an impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they’re on the wrong side of checkpoints, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat’s best friend, Samy, always manages to attract trouble. Luck is on the pair’s side, however, as they undertake the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.
But while their journey may only be a few miles long, it could take a lifetime to complete …
This is the first Abdel-Fattah book that I’ve read, though I started reading a bit of Ten Things I Hate About Me before that and stopped when I got into something else. It was an absolutely fantastic introduction!
For starters, I really loved the depth of the characters in Where the Streets Had A Name. Even though this is a book about Palestinians who have been displaced, the characters aren’t quite as stereotypical as I’ve seen them be in other books. Yes, there is the father who lost his house to the bulldozers when the Israelis were constructing the wall through their hometown, but Hayaat’s father becomes quiet and morose, not angry and politically charged like these types of characters tend to end up. Everyone else in the book seems to be like this as well – there might be a hint of a stereotype in their character, but there is always something else there that makes them unique.
I also liked the way that Abdel-Fattah sprinkled lots of Arabic words throughout the book, with a glossary in the back. This made it feel more authentic to me, like seeing a little piece of what they would actually sound like. Most of the time, there would be an English version of the words right around it, which was a bit annoying to find out when I looked up the words I didn’t know – only to find out that they were already there in the sentence – but which was also helpful in terms of letting the story flow if you just wanted to keep reading without constantly flipping back to the glossary.
Once Hayaat and her friend Samy went off to sneak into Jerusalem, I found myself really rooting for them, hoping that they would be able to find Sitti Zeynab’s home. I felt the anguish and frustration that they felt when they encountered Israeli soldiers and checkpoints, and really understood what it was like to be “stuck” in your house or in your city, without the capacity to travel even short distances. Also, I really grew to love Hayaat, especially once I learned about what had occurred before the events of this book, that which left her with a disfigured face and a family that constantly prays for and pities her.
Make sure you read this when it comes out! It would be an especially good book for anyone – adults or teenagers alike! – who would like to learn something about the conditions that people live with in the Occupied Territories, in more of an immersive way than reading about it in a textbook or non-fiction work.
Definitely the best novel that Abdel-Fattah’s written yet!
- 2/? for the World Religions Challenge
- 5/? for the Middle East Reading Challenge
- 9/? for the Ultimate Reviewers Challenge
This book is a part of the Ramadan Reading event happening here this month.
You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.