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Does My Head Look Big In This? Paperback – Aug 1 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (Aug. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043992233X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439922333
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #125,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—Australian 11th-grader Amal is smart, funny, outspoken, a good student, and a loyal friend. She is also a devout Muslim who decides to wear the hijab, or head covering, full-time. The story tells of her emotional and spiritual journey as she copes with a mad crush on a boy, befriends an elderly Greek neighbor, and tries to help a friend who aspires to be a lawyer but whose well-intentioned mother is trying to force her to leave school and get married. Amal is also battling the misconceptions of non-Muslims about her religion and culture. While the novel deals with a number of serious issues, it is extremely funny and entertaining, and never preachy or forced. The details of Amal's family and social life are spot-on, and the book is wonderful at showing the diversity within Muslim communities and in explaining why so many women choose to wear the hijab. Amal is an appealing and believable character. She trades verbal jibes with another girl, she is impetuous and even arrogant at times, and she makes some serious errors of judgment. And by the end of the story, she and readers come to realize that "Putting on the hijab isn't the end of the journey. It's just the beginning of it."—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Like the author of this breakthrough debut novel, Amal is an Australian-born, Muslim Palestinian "whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens." At 16, she loves shopping, watches Sex and the City, and IMs her friends about her crush on a classmate. She also wants to wear the hijab, to be strong enough to show a badge of her deeply held faith, even if she confronts insults from some at her snotty prep school, and she is refused a part-time job in the food court (she is "not hygienic"). Her open-minded observant physician parents support her and so do her friends, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, secular. Her favorite teacher finds her a private space to pray. The first-person present-tense narrative is hilarious about the diversity, and sometimes heartbreaking. For her uncle who wants to assimilate, "foreign" is the f-word, and his overdone Aussie slang and flag-waving is a total embarrassment. On the other hand, her friend Leila nearly breaks down when her ignorant Turkish mom wants only to marry her daughter off ("Why study?") and does not know that it is Leila's Islamic duty "to seek knowledge, to gain an education." Without heavy preaching, the issues of faith and culture are part of the story, from fasting at Ramadan to refusing sex before marriage. More than the usual story of the immigrant teen's conflict with her traditional parents, the funny, touching contemporary narrative will grab teens everywhere. Rochman, Hazel --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By fiona on July 8 2007
Format: Hardcover
Does My Head Look Big In This? is a much-needed novel, given the heated controversy over facial/head coverings and what this might imply.
Abdel-Fattah, through her main character Amal, tackles this very issue with depth and adroitness.
Amal is a Muslim girl living in Australia. She is very much devoted to her faith, and has decided that she wants to wear the hijab full-time. This is a big deal, because the school she attends is preppy, has a respectable "reputation" with a strict dress code, and contains a mostly white population. Amal wears the hijab to show her faith, but also because she doesn't want to have to worry about her physical appearance like most teenage girls who obsess about their breast size and other body parts.

Abdel-Fattah is not afraid to tackle sensitive topics that arise with the issue of wearing the hijab. Amal faces prejudice, discrimination and insolence from her peers at school as well as in public as a reaction to her hijab. There are accusations of terrorism, fundamentalism, and oppression. Amal is quick to point out that terrorists who fatally end the lives of others are not "Muslim"; rather, they are using religion as a pretext to justify their violent actions. She is careful to separate faith and violent fundamentalism while peers around her are reactionary and seem to follow ignorant notions - grouping every violent or unpleasant phenomenon even remotely associated with Islam, to the religion itself.

What is interesting about this book is that Amal is not at all a fundamentalist Muslim who spends her entire day praying or reading the Koran.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on Aug. 27 2007
Format: Hardcover
Let me start out by saying that DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? is a book that needed to be written, and one that needs to be read. It definitely fills a gap in young adult literature: it's a story about a normal Muslim girl in a non-Muslim country (Australia) who is not escaping oppression by a fundamentalist government/family or anything like that. Amal is just a normal teenage girl, albeit a Muslim one. She has crushes on boys, she likes to go shopping, she giggles with her friends, and she sometimes argues with her parents or feuds with classmates.

However, Amal's life is changed drastically when she makes a major decision: to wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women. This would not be nearly such a big deal were she still at school with all of her friends who are also Muslim and some of whom wear the hijab full-time (meaning: whenever she is around men who are not relatives) as well. However, Amal has recently transferred to a very white-bread prep school, where the environment is completely different.

Amal is subjected to racism and discrimination by kids whose experience with Muslims has largely been confined to what they see in the media. The reactions she faces at home are not all positive, either, but Amal has made a choice. To her, it is a personal, religious decision, to show her devotion to God; it's not about being oppressed as some of her classmates seem to think, or making any sort of statement. Being a Muslim is a part of who Amal is, but in showing that, she faces things a lot worse than any evangelical Christian I know, and that's a sad commentary on our society.

All of that aside, Randa Abdel-Fattah's book is very well-written, and I loved Amal's voice. The characters in this book (particularly Amal) were great.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I learned a great deal from this book and found it entertaining. I would recommend that all teens read it.
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By Asma Akhtar on Oct. 4 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My daughter don't like it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 55 reviews
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Putting on hijab is just the beginning... Aug. 12 2007
By Clear Evidence - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Putting on hijab isn't the end of the journey. It's just the beginning of it," Amal, the narrator, says in the book. This brief statement summarizes the powerful lesson of this compelling, funny novel.

The novel begins as Amal is watching a Friends rerun and is inspired to wear hijab (the Muslim head scarf) when she sees Jennifer Aniston's carefree character get up and dance in a "hideous bridesmaid outfit" at her ex-boyfriend's wedding. This comical, worldy inspiration sets the stage for Amal's third term rollercoaster ride as an eleventh grader in a private, prestigious "institution" (as the principal Ms. Walsh like to call it).

Having gone to Muslim school up until the year before, Amal's decision to cover in hijab will prove a huge test of faith for her, especially since she spent first and second term at the school appearing normal...except for her long name: "Amal Mohamed Nasrullah Abdel-Hakim". (She says, "You can thank my father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather for that one. The teachers labeled me slow in preschool because I was the last child to learn how to spell her name).

As I read, I laughed out loud and shook my head in recognition of how it feels to grow up Muslim in the West, especially as a teenager in school. The book is authentic in its representation of that experience, the ups and downs, the stereotypes, the harassment, and (ah!) the "good souls" that make you smile because they prove that there really are people (however rare they are) who are actually guided by good human sense when dealing with Muslim citizens, instead of CNN headlines on "Islamic" terrorists and the like.

Amal has to deal with normal teenage struggles, school, friends, and even a crush on a fellow classmate Adam, who seems to adore her too. Her relationship with her two Muslim friends brings to light scores of issues that Muslims battle everyday--in their homes and the world--in terms of stereotypes and drawing the line between Islam and culture.

The writing is witty, smooth, and enjoyable. I couldn't put it down once I picked it up. For the writing alone, the book deserves five stars.

I have but one reservation about the book, especially for Muslim readers looking for some inspiration as they seek solace in Western society, despite tons of setbacks:

Despite its obvious Islamic theme (the hijab), the book is definitely not a morale booster in the spiritual sense. As one reviewer commented, the central issues were cliche and stereotypical, but, most significantly, lots of them are not representative of the lifestyle of thousands of practicing Muslim youth living in the West.

Probably the most glaring contradiction is that the hijab is the central focus in the book but the narrator (and apparently the author) repeatedly wants Westerners to see it as "merely a piece of cloth" and not a significant spiritual statement that represents an Islamic lifestyle. This is like saying a Christian wants others to see the cross as merely two pieces of wood (or metal) hammered into the shape of a lowercase "t".

What's more is that the entire purpose of the hijab is completely lost in the book, that of covering one's beauty, as instructed in the Qur'an. Repeatedly, Amal does all she can to accentuate her lips, eyes, and face to make herself appealing, particularly for her "mad crush" Adam. She doesn't lower her gaze, displays no sense of modesty, and is completely at ease in male company, stopping short only of kissing or sleeping with him. This I couldn't relate to, and in fact it left me confused, wondering if the author was going a bit overboard to drum the "We're just like you!" mantra to non-Muslim readers.

Also, although the book was very authentic to the experiences of many Muslim youth, it is grossly inauthentic to hosts of others, especially those who can actually relate to Amal. In most cases, the Amals of the world do not come out as unscathed and "pure" as this narrator does, and in that way the experiences with her "mad crush" Adam bordered more on idealistic than realistic.

Nevertheless, as a novel, it is an excellent read. But if you're looking for a taste of the Muslim youth lifestyle in the West, this book is only scratching the surface and barely so, except for the obvious debunking of stereotypes of Muslims in the media. For the Muslim reader looking for an "emaan lifter", look elsewhere. You're more likely to want to go out on a date, watch Friends, dress like Jessica Simpson, and blast your music than to be inspired to say a single prayer or want to crack the Qur'an open.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Young Adult May 26 2007
By R. Swaney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Randa Abdel-Fattah is an Australian and Muslim writer and her book Does My Head Look Big In This? is the story of a teenage girl Amal who chooses to wear the hijab. The book deals quite well with three larger social themes, one specifically is about choice in religion and one example of what it's like for a Muslim girl in a westernized society. The other larger social theme, which was quite well done regards identity, how we see ourselves, with a specific nod to dislodging the beauty myth. And finally, a critique of the sexual pressures placed on young girls to have sex.

At the same time, I did struggle with some ideas in the book. Early on, Abdel-Fattah knocks at feminism, which is rather well deserved in the sense of "hard-core feminists" (her words, not mine) making an issue out of wearing the hajib when choice is involved. Point taken, but this isn't so much a feminist stance as much as western perceptions and xenophobia pertaining specifically to women of eastern cultures or cultural descent. Additionally, she also ensures a knock at atheism. This sort of misrepresentation (or misinterpretation) carries through the book in not identifying social issues as the problem. After all, in a book that deals with the problematic scenarios of misrepresenting and misinterpreting Islam - well, pot kettle black.

Likewise, every page was detailed by a mass consumer mindset of shopping and buying and consuming. I did start to find this problematic and particularly as the book completely fails to escape the female young adult novel entrenched idea of female competition. Because, you know, a young adult novel can't exist without two girls verbally (if not physically) abusing each other.

Overall it was an enjoyable read (spiced up with the usual young adult fair of crushes and family issues) and one I would recommend with some reservations. The social issue critique and discussion are brilliant, but my hope of finding a novel for young women to read that resists the plague of negative young adult diatribe was not found in this book.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Courtesy of Teens Read Too May 30 2007
By TeensReadToo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Let me start out by saying that DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? is a book that needed to be written, and one that needs to be read. It definitely fills a gap in young adult literature: it's a story about a normal Muslim girl in a non-Muslim country (Australia) who is not escaping oppression by a fundamentalist government/family or anything like that. Amal is just a normal teenage girl, albeit a Muslim one. She has crushes on boys, she likes to go shopping, she giggles with her friends, and she sometimes argues with her parents or feuds with classmates.

However, Amal's life is changed drastically when she makes a major decision: to wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women. This would not be nearly such a big deal were she still at school with all of her friends who are also Muslim and some of whom wear the hijab full-time (meaning: whenever she is around men who are not relatives) as well. However, Amal has recently transferred to a very white-bread prep school, where the environment is completely different.

Amal is subjected to racism and discrimination by kids whose experience with Muslims has largely been confined to what they see in the media. The reactions she faces at home are not all positive, either, but Amal has made a choice. To her, it is a personal, religious decision, to show her devotion to God; it's not about being oppressed as some of her classmates seem to think, or making any sort of statement. Being a Muslim is a part of who Amal is, but in showing that, she faces things a lot worse than any evangelical Christian I know, and that's a sad commentary on our society.

All of that aside, Randa Abdel-Fattah's book is very well-written, and I loved Amal's voice. The characters in this book (particularly Amal) were great. DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? is actually a little reminiscent of the wonderful Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, and that's high praise, indeed! The main characters feel similarly different from their peers, are both Australian, and even have sort of similar voices.

This book is more than worth reading; it's a must-read!

Reviewed by: Jocelyn Pearce
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Teenage Strength Aug. 20 2007
By SZAA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Oh...I loved this book. I absolutely loved this book. It was on a topic that needed to be written about, at least in the YA genre, for quite a long time and I am so glad that it was this brand-spankin' new author that decided to take on the task.

In Does My Head Look Big in This, by Australian author Randa Abdel-Fatthah, Amal, a typical 11th grade girl, is struggling with a very personal decision. Being a Muslim of strong faith, Amal wants to wear her hajib head covering all the time. No, her parents are not forcing her, in fact, they are almost wary of her doing so, this is completely Amal's choice. When she does decide to go forth with her plan to wear the hajib everywhere, except in the company of family, she knows she is setting herself up for prejudice. The headmaster at her private school is not too keen on Amal messing up the uniform system with the hajib, Tia, a snotty girl in Amal's class is set on making her feel like a loser, and Adam, the one boy Amal has had a crush on, seems to like her back, but also is somewhat uncomfortable with the whole religion thing.

Amal stands by the decision she made to wear her faith, quite literally, on her body. She stands up to people that scorn her and when upset, only lets it show to her closest friends and family. This is an incredibly powerful book that is perfect for teens, no matter what they believe in terms of religion. The strength of Amal is beautiful and she is a great role model for teenage girls, struggling to stand up for themselves in a world of peer pressure and designer clothing trends.

This is one of the best teen novels I have read this year and definitely look forward to more works by this author. The character of Amal is exactly who I wish I could have been in high school. I was able to stand up for myself to some extent, but I cared way too much what others thought about my appearance and my personality. I would certainly recommend this book be read by adults and teens everywhere.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
LOVED IT! Dec 15 2007
By Ahmad Moezzi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is beautifully written and made me laugh out loud more times than I can count. I'm not a "young adult" nor do I generarlly read "young adult" books, but this book blew me away. Call it what you want--it's good writing, ten times better than most "old adult" (yes, I made up a genre) books I've read. I would recommend it to anyone--old or young, Muslim or not, male or female. I absolutely loved it!


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