This Abdel-Fattah’s first debut novel was published in 2007. Does My Head Look Big in This? tells a story about a sixteen-year-old Palestinian-Australian-Muslim teenage girl named Amal who lived in Melbourne. At the age of sixteen, Amal decided to become a full-timer. Full-timer means Amal wearing hijab whenever she went to public places, and not just to school. Amal was once attended Islamic school until 10th grade. However, because the school couldn’t provide higher grades for the students, Amal continued her high school in a private school, McCleans.
With its strict rules, as the only one who wore hijab, Amal faced difficulties at school in the first months she wore it. The principle, her classmates, until the teachers sometimes stared at her with prejudice. Not only that, Amal’s position was more difficult since 9/11 terrorist attack and Bali bombing. As the one who was considered as a Muslim–symbolized with her hijab–Amal couldn’t avoid people’s questions and curiosity. They kept asking her how she felt and what actions she would do. Amal was upset because even though she was a Muslim, didn’t mean she could be the general ambassador of Islam. Because that kinds of action didn’t reflect Islamic values, and those were just people who used religion as a justification for their evil actions.
Along with the story, Amal was struggling to prove that her hijab was only a piece of material that could not be the obstacle of everything she did.
I really like this book because it shows young readers a diverse world and how the characters dealt with it. It depicts what is going on in today’s world by putting distinct features in each character. For example, Amal’s uncle and aunt, even though were Arabs, completely buried their roots, and they tried hard to assimilate with Australians. They even changed their names into Western names so that the could forget their past and moved on with their new Australian identity.
Amal’s best friend’s mother, Laila, was a woman who was uneducated and forced to be a child bride. She was the ‘victim’ of patriarchal society in which she always taught to be submissive; girls should stay at home and be a good wife and mother. Period. No education. No job. Girls wandering around at night were not good girls. Girls had a high education were against ‘Islam’. On the other hand, Laila’s mother herself never been taught to read Alquran nor Hadits nor Sunnah. Everything she got was only a tradition, deeply rooted from patriarchal society, passed orally from her ancestors and considered as ‘Islamic teachings’.
Don’t forget to mention how Amal experienced injustice in public places just because she got ‘a piece of material on her head’. She didn’t get a job just because the boss thought that her hijab was unacceptable for the job. The bus driver stared at her judgmentally when the news about Bali bombing blared through morning radio. And also, she became a walking spokesperson whenever her friends asked her about terrorist attacks as if Amal knew everything about it.
Nevertheless, despite the obstacles and difficulties and hardships, Amal was still a normal teenage girl. She fell in love, she made friends, she went to parties, she hung out, and she read Cosmo and Teen Vogue. Amal became a proof that hijab was not a symbol of backwardness, but it could still fit into modern society.
I rate the book ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Does My Head Look Big in This?
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Pages: 340 pages
Publisher: Pan Australia