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A Map of Home

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  670 ratings  ·  144 reviews
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“A coming-of-age story that’s both singular and universal–an outstanding debut.”
–Kirkus Reviews *Starred Review*
“Jarrar's sparkling debut about an audacious Muslim girl growing up in Kuwait, Egypt and Texas is intimate, perceptive and very, very funny…Jarrar explores familiar adolescent ground–stifling parental expectations, precarious friendships, sensuality and
Kindle Edition
Published (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,799)
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Sep 23, 2008 Randa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
I shamelessly endorse my own book!
I REALLY enjoyed this book. It is HONEST and RAW and RIPE. Love the expletives the characters use like:
"May the caves they live in be their eternal dwellings!"
"Sons of Whores!"
and some other good ones that I am too embarrassed to write.
The dialogue is like bullets flying:
When 12 year old Nidali (the narrator of this story)asks her mother for another glass of water, her mother replies,"Drink your spit."
When the family is forced to leave Kuwait(1990) because it has been invaded by Iraq, Nidali wr
This book tells the story of a girl, Nidali, growing up in Kuwait during the time before and during the Iraqi invasion, eventually fleeing to Egypt and the US. This book was just okay for me. I felt sometimes that the writing seemed a little forced. I've generally appreciated the perspective of coming of age stories, when stories are told from the point of view of a young person, however I didn't really enjoy it in this book. I think its because the narrator is so spunky and strong and independe ...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

(UPDATE, DECEMBER 2008: I heard today from this book's author, Randa Jarrar, who wanted to make a clarification: that not all of her three college degrees are related to writing, but rather with one being in Middle Eastern Studies and a second in the general Liberal Arts. My apologies for the error.)

The figurative language and images in this novel are simply breathtaking. There are so many creative surprises and literary pleasure along the way--switching to a second person voice in one chapter, incorporating hilarious compositions in another, referring to Hemingway's story "Hills Like White Elephants" with the title of Chapter Eight, "Tanks Like Green Elephants." The turn of each page brought some other delightful twist.

The characters in "A Map of Home" are memorable, larger than life, and
Loved it. So funny and raw and irreverent and smart and whimsical.
Review to come!

Here the review:

Like many a classic coming-of-age or fictional autobiography, A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar begins with the birth of the heroine. What you don’t usually see, though, is a screaming match in an American hospital in Arabic between the mother and father after a disagreement about the baby’s name. If you don’t know any Arabic words, this is an interesting introduction by the main character Nidali’s moth
Shellie (Layers of Thought)

In this wonderful, humorous, and powerful story - Nidali is a strong teen caught between self discovery, and the constraints of war within a culture where women are subjected to very confining roles. The story opens with her “Baba” hoping for a the birth of a boy, due to his awareness of the difficulties facing women in Kuwait. In doing so he accidently names her Nidal. When realizing she is a girl, he adds an i creating Nidali, the narrator’s name.

Born in America from an Egyptian and Greek mot
After reading C(h)ristine's glowing review of this book, I feel like a grinch for having given it only two stars, but I am going to stand by my rating.

First, the good stuff: this book is a female coming-of-age novel (a genre I'm especially interested in, though maybe my special interest leads me to be unfairly extra-demanding of them), is definitely competently written, and it maintains a pretty standard tone throughout; that is, there aren't any wildly bad parts or ill-conceived characters or l
I love this book. It is a great example, along with Junot Diaz’s writing, of how the voice of a narrator can make you fall in love with a character and what she might have to say before the story really even begins. It is a bildungsroman, starring Nidali, a spunky charismatic firecracker of a girl, who is born in Chicago, grows up in Kuwait and then after war displaces her, moves to Egypt, and then after more difficulties moves to Texas.

I can’t tell you how many times this book had me laughing m
Amanda Anthony
4.5 - Not 5 because it got a little aimless in the middle. I've noticed that since I've moved abroad I'm much more interested in stories that feature people being away from home for a long period of time, being in second homes, or being forced from their homes. This book was a fantastic read - the narrator's voice is funny and frank, and I loved her discovery of self. Her description of her loss of home and finding home was really powerful. But she was genuinely funny. I wondered if it was semi- ...more
This is one of those books that's kind of hard to sell. Like you look at the summary and can easily think "do I really need to read another coming of age story about a kid whose background coincidentally matches the author's" cause honestly I sure as hell normally don't have much interest in reading those but in this case: yes, yes you do. Randa Jarrar is one of those writers that could read the phonebook to you and somehow make the whole thing riveting and funny and make you want to devour it c ...more
I'm tired of coming-of-age stories. I get so exhausted by stories that are supposed to represent people similar to me, but which I don't relate to at all. I'm tired of culture clash stories, the stereotypes and judgment so often present in these stories.

I loved this book. I had a hard time putting it down, so I was sort of grateful that I got sick right after starting it and I wasn't good for much other than reading. There is coming-of-age, centering on a girl who has relatively little in common
The premise: A Map of Home covers Nidali's journey through Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and America as a Greek-Palestinian-Egyptian immigrant, including her various identity struggles, the relationships she forms and loses, and how she ultimately compiles one identity out of many for herself.

The good: It is so nice to read a female coming-of-age story that's actually funny! So many of these stories I've read have been wonderful, but incredibly somber, serious, and/or sad. A Map of Home is none of those
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'm sure everyone on the bus was wondering why I laughed out loud so much. It's a riotous story of a rebellious teenage girl- following her from Kuwait to Egypt to Texas. Yet another great coming of age story. The interactions between Nidali and her parents are priceless. I did get a little tired of the abusive dad, but still well worth a read. Look forward to more from this emerging author.
"Rare is the book that makes one stay up to finish it; this is one of them, simultaneously circling in its family dramas and
spiralling outwards in its connections to history and place. Adult and teen readers alike would enjoy Nidali’s honest portrayal..." ( review).

Author interview.
Sandy D.
I've read a lot of memoirs about the Middle East, but this one was unique. The author's humor, her incredible use of language (including bad language!), and her ambition and love for life really made reading it a joy. I hope she writes a lot more books.
Oct 28, 2008 Heather rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Now this was a good time. I'd read a bit about the author and the book at, and it sounded like just the thing I needed--funny, vibrant, poignant, and otherwise just delicious. I loved Jarrar's style and wit.
Jul 24, 2012 M rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Muna Al-Ali
A sharp, humorous and candid look at growing up in both the Middle East and the US, 'A Map of Home' is the story of Nidali, a half-Palestinian, half-Egyptian girl whose family must abandon its home in Kuwait following the rise of Saddam Hussein. The book is divided into three parts: Life in Kuwait before Saddam, life as refugees in Egypt, and finally life as immigrants in Texas. It is in the first two halves of the book that the story truly shines, presenting an honest and often painfully (liter ...more
I am in love with this book! I know I could have finished it in a few days, but I really wanted to read it slowly and enjoy it. I picked this book up at our book sale last year, and I was in the mood for something honest and ripe. Wow, did I find it in this novel. Nidali Ammar is born to an Egyptian mother and Palestinian father in the great city of Boston in the 1970s. The first chapter was hilarious as Nidali's father is convinced he has sired a son and decides to name the baby "My Struggle," ...more
Jamie Elliott
Nidali Ammar, born in America to a Greek/Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father, spends her childhood in flux between Kuwait, Palestine, Egypt, and Texas. A Map of Home chronicles her childhood from birth to departure to college, and has such a biographical feel that I was unsurprised to find that first-time author Randa Jarrar is also the daughter of a Greek/Egyptian mother and a Palestinian father who spent her youth moving from country to country. Jarrar set out to write a book that would r ...more
It's not often (never) that I've read a lighthearted book that takes place in the Middle East so this was a nice change of pace. Nidali has a mother who's Greek & Egyptian and a Palestinian father. She's born in Boston but then grows up in Kuwait moves to Egypt and eventually moves to Texas. She's an entire melting pot all by herself. But for all the exoticness of the main character this story is your basic coming of age story. It feels a little like a memoir as well as the author shares a s ...more
The most significant thing about this book is that it made me miss Jordan. The character in the novel talked about how her favorite food was za'ater burgers. My favorite thing to eat was "za'ater pizza." All za'ater is is a mixture of thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, and salt, but for some reason, that combination on a piece of flatbread with a little crumbly goat cheese is a delicious flavor. It's a comfort food I had forgotten.

Nidali is half Egyptian and half Palestinian, growing up in
E. Anderson
Nidali has an American passport, since she was born in Boston. Her Mama is Egyptian and Greek, her father is Palestinian, making Nidali "half-and-half." Growing up in Kuwait, she never quite feels at home - she has her friends, but she is on a different wavelength. She is a smart girl, but it's never quite enough for her father, a man who expects her to become a famous professor. While the story of her parents' courtship is one she remembers, somehow, with fondness, Nidali now deals with the alm ...more
Kat Bryan
I read this thinking it was a true story – I don’t know why. And thinking it was real, I didn’t like how the author wrote about her life. Now that I’m done and realize that it IS a novel, I still don’t like the story very much but I did find it very interesting. The tone of the book was somewhat juvenile like a young girl really was telling the story. It does do a good job of portraying life in the Arabic countries, putting a fresh spin on the life of a young girl there.

The book is reviewed as ‘
This book is laugh-out-loud funny, while telling an entertaining and sometimes moving story of an Arab family's 17-year journey from America to Kuwait to Egypt and back to America again. During that time, its narrator Nidali grows from her arrival as a newborn at a hospital in Boston to her departure from home for college. Hers is a tightly-knit family, her father Palestinian and her mother Egyptian. From beginning to end there are stormy scenes between parents and between parents and children. ...more
This was quite an amusing tale although at times, I wondered how it was possible for such a young child to be so witty. I'm not a big fan of authors using children to make their points about life because it never seems convincing to me. But maybe I just didn't know many witty children growing up. Not only is Nidali witty but she's also very observant. She notices things about her parents and other relatives that I had a hard time believing she noticed. It don't bother me too much once I really g ...more
Alia Yunis
So many childhoods in the Middle East have been interrupted by war, and yet children--and teenagers even more so--go on growing, enveloped in their own angst, particularly within the middle and upper classes. This novel captures a girl that embodies so many of the conflicts of her time-Palestine, Iraq, Eygpt, Kuwait--and yet battles the conflicts of her family, her hormones, and her dreams with endless energy and conviction. In this novel, multiculturalism born of necessity leads to the the crea ...more
Derek Emerson
The coming of age novel is a traditional and logical starting point for any aspiring novelist. In this time of many books and fewer readers, the challenge is to create a unique voice which can be heard above the din. In Randa Jarrar's debut, "A Map of Home," we find a voice which rises above the din to give us a modern and insightful look at how more young people come of age. Jarrar's own international upbringing lends support to her creation of Nidali, born in Boston to a Palestinian father and ...more
I picked this up one Saturday morning to read over breakfast, and ended up being completely blown away. It's the story of a family who lives in Kuwait and has to move a number of times, with the plot mainly following their daughter as she grows up. The author has such a strong literary voice; I must have dogeared every other page for the first fifty or so. The details are great, the characters are interesting - I highly recommend it. The only thing that did let me down a little bit - the reason ...more
Sarah B.
Hmmm. I wanted to like this book, and it's about subjects I am drawn to (such as girls' lives, the Middle East, having crazy parents, living through political upheaval, emigrating to Texas, and being boy-crazy). However, I found it difficult to engage with this book, mostly because there is very little tension in Jarrar's writing. The only crisis in the book was that the main character, Nidali, is coming of age. Other than that, the story was simply a series of anecdotes, with no story arc, no c ...more
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Randa Jarrar is the author of the critically acclaimed novel A Map of Home, which won a Hopwood Award, an Arab-American Book Award, and was named one of the best novels of 2008 by the Barnes and Noble Review. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Five Chapters, The Oxford American, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, Guernica, Utne, The Rumpus, and the Progressive, and she was selected for Beirut ...more
More about Randa Jarrar...
Dinarzad's Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction The Year of the Revolutionary New Bread-making Machine Million Writers Award: The Best New Online Voices Skive Magazine - Issue 10, December 2008 Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest

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