A Map of Home

A Map of Home

by Randa Jarrar

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

From America to the Middle East and back again— the sparkling story of one girl’s childhood, by an exciting new voice in literary fiction

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143116264
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/25/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 195,237
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Randa Jarrar was born in Chicago in 1978. She grew up in Kuwait and Egypt, and moved back to the U.S. at thirteen. She is a writer and translator whose honors include the Million Writers Award, the Avery Hopwood and Jule Hopwood Award and the Geoffrey James Gosling Prize. Her fiction has appeared in Ploughshares as well as in numerous journals and anthologies. Her translations from the Arabic have appeared in Words Without Borders: The World Through the Eyes of Writers; recently, she translated Hassan Daoud’s novel, The Year of the Revolutionary New Bread-Making Machine. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A Map of Home is her first novel.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

" [An] extraordinary debut . . . Jarrar's lack of sentimentality, and her wry sense of humor, make Home a treasure."
-People (four stars)
"A Map of Home will leave you laughing out loud."
-Entertainment Weekly

"Randa Jarrar takes all the sappy, beloved clichTs about 'where you hang your hat' and blows them to smithereens in her energizing, caustically comic debut novel."
-The Christian Science Monitor

Reading Group Guide

1. Nidali opens with the story of her birth and says, "Baba realized that he didn't know my sex for sure but that didn't matter; he'd always known I was a boy." How does the fact that Nidali is female affect her relationship with her father? Do you think Waheed would have been as hard on her if she had been a boy? Examine the dynamics of this father-daughter relationship.

2. Nidali grows up in several different countries. What do you learn about adolescence from her varied perspective? Is it a universal experience?

3. Examine the several passages in which Nidali reflects on the idea of home and what it means to her. How does she define home? Is it a concept or something more concrete? What does the title refer to?

4. When Nidali’s religious cousin Esam comes to visit, he throws away her Wonder Woman stickers, proclaiming the character looks like a “naked heathen” and “a shameless prostitute.” Nidali looks at the remains of the stickers and says, “These white spots were, to me, parts of God.” What role does religion play in Nidali’s childhood? Does it change or evolve as she grows up?

5. Consider the different settings in the novel--Kuwait, Egypt, and Texas. Where do you think the Ammar family is the most content? Find instances when Jarrar weaves historical events into the plot and discuss the different ways her characters are affected by them.

6. Nidali writes a letter to Sadam Hussein to complain about the Iraqi invasion and how it is ruining her life. What does this reveal about Nidali? About the connection between the personal and the political?

7. Nidali's parents each live with the disappointment that they gave up their dream careers: Waheed never became a great poet and Ruz never became a concert pianist. How does each parent deal with this regret? How do their failures affect Nidali and her own hopes for the future?

8. Nidali chronicles her family's new life in America in the chapter "The Shit No One Bothered to Tell Us." What is the effect of her ironic commentary in these vignettes? How does Nidali portray her new home? Does she find anything positive in Texas?

9. Waheed is a complex character, capable of extreme compassion and love as well as quick-tempered anger and abuse. Do you ever sympathize with Waheed? What are the driving forces of his behavior?

10. Nidali's sexual awakening is a significant part of her adolescence. From her first boyfriend Fakhr in Kuwait to her high-school crush Medina in Texas, Nidali goes through a range of joyous and unpleasant experiences. Compare and contrast these encounters. How does she react to heartbreak? To disappointment?

11. Growing up, Nidali is fascinated by her family history. In what ways does family history affect an individual life? How is Nidali shaped by those events in her family that occurred before her birth?

12. Does Waheed's acceptance of Nidali's final act of rebellion--going to the "forbidden fruit college in Boston"-- show he is finally ready to let go? Is his change of heart a reaction to his recent experiences as an immigrant is the U.S. or is it in keeping with his long-standing relationship with Nidali? Is this a fitting ending?

13. The book opens with Waheed holding a pen, and ends with Ruz throwing one out the window, and Nidali catching it. What role does writing play in the novel?

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