Book Review: Does My Head Look Big In This? -- Randa Abdel-Fattah
One thing I told myself I would do this summer is read more. I started this book earlier this summer and left it unfinished (really bad of me, I know).Nonetheless, I finally finished it and decided to review the book as I enjoyed it.
This is probably the only book that I've read twice - not because its my all-time favourite, but because I was given the book about five or six years ago,I read it, but hurriedly, and also didn't appreciate the book because I think I was too young to understand and grasp what she was saying.
I particularly enjoyed the book because I could relate to it in so many instances. I think my dad bought me the book to encourage me to wear the hijab, or to keep me convinced when I had already started. I'm not too sure, but I either way, the main character, Amal, 16 year-old Palestinian living in Australia decides to take up wearing the hijab "full-time" rather than when having a bad hair day too. The book explores her school life mainly with this new change in her identity, and all the challenges it brings with the people around her.
Certain parts of the book stood out to me like this one.
I remember feeling terrified about wearing the hijab to school for the first time in year 7. As much as i knew practically no-one there I was scarfed of ill-judgement, discrimination and bullying because of the hijab that I was choosing to adopt. Despite my fear I was driven to do it because i felt it was the right thing to do, just like Amal did.
ABove are typical questions that I have been asked in my time of wearing the hijab "full-time". Some to me were ridiculous, like "do you wear it in the shower" and "Do you wear it to bed?" but I couldn't blame people for their ignorance, and most people are just genuinely intrigued - so you answer the questions politely, understanding that they just want to know.
I do not have a mother like Leila in this book who believes she won't get anywhere professionally because of hijab, but once in a while these questions do pop up in my head. The disapproving stares and confused looks I get from the public sometimes are discouraging but don't stop me pursuing a career and everything else I want to achieve.
There were also in the book where Amal describes what it is like to be a Musilm in the Western world. You, sitting in your seat at home when watching the news somehow feels guilty when you hear something on the news about a Muslim, often something terrorist/war related, when you had nothing to do with it. I, like Amal, wince at the derogation of Islam especially found in the media.
(this image is particularly unclear, apologies)
Here is Amal lashing out in anger as she often does in the novel, to a girl who asked her to explain the terrorist acts of some in Bali for a school assembly of some sort. It is frustrating, to think that people actually succumb to the generalisation the media had portrayed of Muslims. Sometimes i feel like responding to people asking me questions like Amal did, bringing up Hitler, the KKK, the Zionists and the IRA, they're all based on religion in some sense. The stereotype stings, especially because no-one else puts these groups to a whole religion like stereotypes are put to Islam.
How? Its sad to think that the average person who may not have had the luck of knowing/being confident enough to ask a Muslim, or find out about Islam would be feed with so much misconception. Maybe its because I am Muslim myself, but it seems obscene to think tat a religion with a name stemming from the root word 'Salam' meaning peace would be so violent. Seriously, to me its like common sense or logic but to some I guess not.
(soul, the blurry word is soul)
The verse that Amal speaks of is :
"And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein" [50:16]
which is a reminder that Allah is close by. Very close. Personally, this ayah ( verse) of the Quran steers me clear of sin and wrong-doing, yet also assures me that my Lord is near, that He knows me. It's one of my favourites too.
Similarly, I feel the same way about Ramadan. You're hungry and tires and thirsty throughout but when it goes you really miss it. Ramadan is my favourite month of the year by far, and although we've just left it, I already miss it.
Putting on a hijab and walking into the streets is more than putting a hijab on and walking into the streets. You represent a global community of people that are already under a lot of pressure already. There is a sense of identity, responsibility and ambassadorship that I never felt before i put on the hijab. It has really connected me, I think, to what is known as the brotherhood/sisterhood in Islam. I find myself staying in check for the sake of myself of course but also because I'm partially responsible for the depiction of my Ummah. As much as I dislike the fact that people associate the wrongdoings of some Muslims to the whole faith, it the way to learn about Islam- via the Muslims you see. There is a hadith that I can't find that supports this, which makes total sense. I represent my people, regardless of whether I've done good or bad. The same goes for being a teenager, and being black, and being a female I represent these labels too.
I know that the five ( or six) years that I have been wearing hijab have not shown, me all the trials and tribulations I will face being a Muslim female, so again, Amal is completely right in saying that wearing the hijab is just the beginning of it.
I recommend this book to all, Muslim and non-Muslim, as it will educate, inspire,and maybe make you chuckle a little.I hope you enjoy this book like me.