"I need to see Sitti Zeynab one last time. To know if I will have the courage to go ahead with my plan. The two nurses look frazzled and smile wearily at me. 'We must leave now,' they say in urgent tones. 'I won't be long,' I reassure them and I jump up onto the back of the ambulance.
"I can smell the air of her village, pure and scented. I can see her village as though it were Bethlehem itself. I can smell the almond trees. Hear my heels click on the courtyard tiles. See myself jumping two steps at a time down the limestone stairs. I can see Sitti Zeynab sitting in the front porch of the house. I only have to remember that walk through her memories and I know I can make my promise. I've already lost once. I refuse to lose again. 'Stay alive,' I whisper. 'And you shall touch that soil again.'"
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 the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, as well as the check points, the curfews, the permit system and Hayaat's best friend Samy, who is mainly interested in football and the latest elimination on X-Factor, but always manages to attract trouble.
But luck is on their side. Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel to Jerusalem. However, while their journey may only be a few kilometres long, it may take a lifetime to complete.
WINNER OF THE 2009 VICTORIAN INKYS AWARDS http://www.insideadog.com.au/blog/inky-awards-2009
The Middle East Outreach Council Youth Literature Award 2011 http://www.meoc.us/book-awards/2011-meoc-book-awards
Selected to be included in the New York Public Library's annual list of 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing of 2010. http://kids.nypl.org/reading/100_books_2010_nypl.pdf
Kirkus, review, October 1, 2010
"As she did in Does My Head Look Big in This? (2007) and Ten Things I Hate About Me (2009), Abdel-Fattah introduces a bright, articulate Muslim heroine coping with contemporary life, this time during the West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2004. After the Israelis confiscate and demolish their home, 13-year-old Hayaat and her Palestinian family endure curfews, checkpoints and concrete walls, exiled in a cramped apartment in Bethlehem. Hayaat’s father silently mourns his lost olive groves, while her grandmother longs for the Jerusalem home her family abandoned in 1948. With her face scarred by shattered glass, Hayaat wears her own reminder of the occupation. Determined to retrieve some Jerusalem soil for her ailing grandmother, Hayaat and her Christian pal, Samy, secretly embark on a short but harrowing mission into forbidden territory. Hayaat chronicles this life-altering journey in the first-person, present tense, giving readers an intimate glimpse into the life of her warm, eccentric Muslim family, who survive despite the volatile political environment. A refreshing and hopeful teen perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. (glossary of Arabic words) (Fiction. 9-12)"
The Horn Book – Jan/Feb 2010
In Israeli-occupied Bethlehem, fear and bloodshed are as much a part of life as scolding parents and school pranks. Ever since their house and land were destroyed, Hayaat's Muslim family has lived in a small apartment: parents, sisters, brothers, and (flatulent) Sitti Zeynab, Hayaat's beloved grandmother. Despite interruptions by unpredictable curfews, daily life carries on, including big plans for Hayaat's sister's wedding. Hayaat's Christian best friend, Samy, is a born troublemaker and reliable source of entertainment; he also defends Hayaat from cruel remarks about the scars across her face, inflicted on a terrible day that Hayaat tries hard to forget. The sights, sounds, and smells of Bethlehem come to life as the two race each other through the streets. When Sitti Zeynab falls ill, Hayaat recruits Samy on a mission to cross the wall illegally and bring back a jar of earth from her homeland. The long journey through numerous checkpoints is alternatingly tedious and frightening, vividly depicting the trials of occupation and the extreme fortitude of the people living under it. The joyful occasion of Jihan's wedding at novel's end is a clear sign of hope in the midst of hardship. Abdel-Fattah's (Does My Head Look Big in This?, rev. 7/07) message isn't subtle but loud and heartfelt as delivered by thirteen-year-old Hayaat: "In the end we are all of us only human beings who laugh the same." Who can fight that? — LAUREN ADAMS
Publishers Weekly – Oct 25, 2010
This suspenseful novel reveals the plight of Palestinians living in occupied territory, as 13-year-old Hayaat braves the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, trying to fulfill the wish of her ailing grandmother, who dreams of touching the soil of her home once more. In her first middle-grade novel, Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?) crafts a classic quest and adeptly sketches the strong friendship between Hayaat and her soccer-obsessed friend Samy, who accompanies her through checkpoints, and the memorable cast they encounter along the way, which includes a pair of Israeli peace activists. The rest of Hayaat's family anchor the narrative and prove equally compelling, including Hayaat's older sister, who is preparing for her wedding; her tenacious mother; and her depressed father. Clues to the disfiguring accident that scarred Hayaat and caused the death of her best friend build, illuminating a source of fear and sorrow. Still, Hayaat manages to hold onto hope: "Maybe it's not about survival. Maybe we have to learn how to live with purpose." The heroine's courage, warmth, and humor despite mounting challenges will win over readers. Ages 9–12. (Nov.)
Teach Magazine (website), review, September 14, 2010
“Author, Randa Abdel-Fattah deals with loss, friendship, family, war, and an extremely delicate political subject with grace, humour, and truth. Readers are sure to be submersed right from the beginning of the book. They will feel sadness, happiness, and the dusty road that Hayaat and Sammy are traveling on.”
Kiss The Book (blog), review, September 15, 2010
“Abdel-Fattah’s brilliant novel brings the realities of life in Israel into unequivocal focus. Once you have read this book, you cannot say that you are ignorant ever again.”
Reading in Color (blog), entry on the book’s upcoming release, September 8, 2010
Reportage - Magazine of the Australian Centre for Independant Journalism
The Electronic Intifada
Life Matters: ABC National Radio Interview
‘A poignant, personal and deeply felt book.’
PAGES AND PAGES BOOKSELLERS
‘Randa tackles the Palestinian/Israeli conflict with humour and compassion.’
‘I encourage everyone to read this book. Not simply because it drives home the immediacy and truth of living a displaced life, but rather because…it is a fantastic, funny book.’
“Where The Streets Had A Name is undoubtedly Abdel-Fattah’s most mature and realized work, and the intensity of its subject matter makes it no less appealing to young adults; indeed it is a welcome change to the standard schoolyard setting where a lot of teen novels are played out…Abdel-Fattah possesses a knack for bringing characters to life and can move easily between intense emotional drama and comedy”.
Does My Head Look Big In This? has been granted Screen NSW development funds for adapting the book to a feature film.
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