In Randa Abdel-Fattah’s wonderfully written debut novel, “Does My Head Look Big in this?” a teenager struggles to tear herself away from the cultural and religious stereotypes she faces. Amal, an Australian-Muslim-Palestinian, feels she got "whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens." She faces bullies, racists and even herself throughout the book after she decides to wear the hijab in an attempt to practice her religion. She shows great courage and passion as she realizes the obstacles that in her decision to wear the hijab - she is often her own worst enemy.
“High school is tough enough without throwing a hijab into the mix…” as is stated at the back of the book. Within the novel, there are those who are skeptical of her choice, those who are against it, and those who try to convince her to remove it.
Although the novel downplays some religious acts (for example, at one point in Ramadan, the characters go to a theatre and break their fast with popcorn), it is still a largely true picture. We need to keep in mind that this book was post 9/11, and the author mentions this in the novel as well. Other than a couple of lightly-treated religious concepts, I’d have to say that overall, Abdel-Fattah does a good job trying to get the idea of Islam across to readers.
Amal faces high school crushes and drama that never seems to end, just as any other typical high school girl would. Abdel-Fattah seems to be trying to make the point that Amal is just the same as any other teenager…which she is.
The author of this riveting book has done a great job of portraying this issue and making it known that it doesn’t matter what you look like from the outside, it matters who you are in the inside. Cliché, I know, but nonetheless, a well written book and an even better outlook on the issue at hand.
“…This [novel] should speak to anyone who has felt like an outsider for any reason,” critics say. I highly recommend this novel, as it is witty and sensitive at the same time, providing Muslims and non-Muslims alike with the thoughts of a struggling teenager, trying to get through life without falling into the clutches of societal stereotypes. She tries to make herself heard, and prove to not only others, but herself as well, that the barriers society has placed on her won’t change a thing.