Does My Head Look Big In This?

 Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

This is the story of Amal, a Turkish/Australian who is in the 11th grade.  During winter break she makes the decision to wear the hijab full time.  This is the scarf head covering many Muslim women wear to cover their hair when they leave the house.  Amal makes this decision by herself.  She is not forced by her parents.  In fact her parents are concerned and don’t want her to rush into any decision.  After years in an Islamic school where the hijab was part of the uniform, she is going to a mostly white private school where she is the only Muslim.  (Her Islamic school only went to the 10th grade because of funding.) 

Amal knows there will be repercussions.  Many people do not understand her culture and will probably think she’s a terrorist.  But she’s worried most of all about the boy she likes, Adam.  He has been pretty friendly lately; will he still want to be her friend?

Amal shows such strength.  When her principal tries to ban her from wearing the hijab she is able to convince her otherwise.  While her friends accept her for who she is, Amal still has to endure comments, especially when a night club in Bali is attacked by terrorists.  The snobby and popular Tia does not make her life any easier either.

Amal has two good friends outside of school from her Islamic school, Lylia and Yasmeen.  Lylia is part of a very traditional Turkish family. Her mother wants to marry her off right now, and she’s only 16.  Amal and her parents have to deal with family and friends who are extreme and other family members that want to forget their roots and become more Australian. 

This book shows how hard it can be to straddle two worlds.  Amal likes Adam, but can never be his girlfriend because she does not believe in dating.  She is able to make friends and have a lot of fun, while not disrespecting her family and beliefs. Amal is such a great character.  I think young women will feel empowered reading her story no matter what culture they come from.

Some ideas for discussion with teens:

Would you change your outward appearance for you faith?

Do you know someone who has?

What kind of risks would you take to be different?

How do you think this decision changes Amal?

Talk about the different families portrayed in this story: from the ones who are more extreme to the ones who want to give up their culture and assimilate.

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