Summary: Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel0-Fattah is the story of 16 year old Amal, who is a Muslim living in Australia. One day, she decides that she wants to wear her hijab full time. This decision practically turns her whole world around. She is soon confronted with a world full of stereotypes and ignorance for her culture. But we see that Amal is strong as she not only withstands all these prejudices, but also learns more about herself and her culture.
Cultural Markers: This book was written by Muslim-Australian author, Randa Abdel-Fattah, so the authenticity of Amals journey is valid and credible. All throughout the novel, we notice many references to Amals Muslim culture. Not just with the hibab that Amal chooses to wear, but we see Muslim food and other Muslim religious holidays throughout the story as well. Amal refers to her hibab as an “identity and a symbol of her faith.” But of course, she does fear prejudices, like people calling her “towelhead.” There are also a few Arabic phrases throughout the story. For example, we hear “Yallah!” which just means to hurry up and we also see the performance of wuduh, or the ablution, part of their culture. Living in Australia, but being of the Muslim faith from Palestine is not an easy thing to adjust to. There is sort of a theme on immigration going on in this book. Amal may not be an immigrant herself, but she most certainly feels that way because she just cannot fit in, despite the help of her friends and other adults. Amal herself put’s says it well when she says, “I’m an Australian-Muslim-Palestinian. That means I was born an Aussie and whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens…I mean, it’s hard enough being an Arab Muslim at a new school with your hair tumbling down your shoulders. Shawling up is just plain psychotic.” This means that not only is there a theme on immigration, but as we see in many teen novels, she is just trying to find herself.
Personal Thoughts: To me, Amal is very wise and understands quite a bit of the world for just being a 16 year old. I did like that the book had a mix of seriousness and humor. That made it really simple and fun to read. It’s interesting to see a mix of two cultures that you just don’t see together to often. Maybe I am a bit close off, but I had never heard of a “Muslim-Australian.” I do feel quite ignorant about that fact, but I am glad I know better now. This book would make a great addition to my middle school library.
Awards: Australian Book Industry Award and Australian Book of The Year Award for older children.
From School Library Journal: “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.”
From Booklist: “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
Discussion Questions: https://multcolib.org/does-my-head-look-big
Abdel-Fattah, Randa. (2005). Does My Head Look Big in This? New York: Orchard Books.