Lilliputian Review: A Map of Home

From the Publisher: In this fresh, funny, and fearless debut novel, Randa Jarrar chronicles the coming-of-age of Nidali, one of the most unique and irrepressible narrators in contemporary fiction. Born in 1970s Boston to an Egyptian-Greek mother and a Palestinian father, the rebellious Nidali—whose name is a feminization of the word “struggle”—soon moves to a very different life in Kuwait. There the family leads a mildly eccentric middle-class existence until the Iraqi invasion drives them first to Egypt and then to Texas. This critically acclaimed debut novel is set to capture the hearts of everyone who has ever wondered what their own map of home might look like.

My Thoughts: The total mess that is being a teenage girl is accurately drawn in A Map of Home. Nothing much is sanitized. There's the chronic masturbation (hey, girls do it too!), experimentation with males and females, unadulterated hatred of one's parents and reckless behavior (or did I cover that already?). I think Nidali personifies what teen girls wish they could be - when her parents hit her, she hits them back; when they try to control her she runs away and regains said control; and when she's the odd duck in another new place she adapts and keeps going.

Sure, it's instructional re: the political turmoil and complex cultural divisions of the 80's/90's Middle East. Nidali's own heritage is complex and this is compounded by her outsider status in her various homes so it's an intensified look at identity and the meaning of place BLA BLA but really, it's a rollicking tale about family. Nidali's mother and father are very real and very messed up people and you'll hate them (trying to mold Nidali in their own image, beating her) and love them (their inability to achieve their dreams, their endless love for their daughter) and you'll wonder just how you survived those high-strung teen years.

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