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The Girl Who Fell to Earth

3.52  ·  Rating Details  ·  565 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
When Sophia Al-Maria's mother sends her away from rainy Washington State to stay with her husband's desert-dwelling Bedouin family in Qatar, she intends it to be a sort of teenage cultural boot camp. What her mother doesn't know is that there are some things about growing up that are universal. In Qatar, Sophia is faced with a new world she'd only imagined as a child. She ...more
Paperback, 271 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Harper Perennial
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Community Reviews

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Mar 03, 2016 Zanna rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those wanting clearer images of Arabia
This memoir has a stranger-than-fiction appeal made all the more delectable by Al-Maria's matter-of-fact, breezy delivery. She deploys language with a spring in its step and whimsy in its heart. The glossary alone made me feel I was drinking coffee and catching up with a friend I loved the space/sci-fi theme, which dissolved alienating boundaries between urban and traditional Beduin, Cairene and rural USian lifestyles, but left their quirks and contrasts intact. I felt Al-Maria's relish and rese ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it
For much of my reading of The Girl Who Fell to Earth, I felt fairly confused about my feelings for the book, perhaps reflecting the author's feelings of confusion with her life and identity as an Arab-American girl and Muslim whose parents lived on different continents and lived quite separate lives. Sophia/Safya Al-Maria is the daughter of an American mother from Pallyup and a Bedouin father from Doha and other places. The couples' history is included in this memoir. Sophia's story is influence ...more
Dec 17, 2014 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
Part American and part Bedouin--growing up in at least two cultures

When Sophia Al-Maria’s father was a boy his family still lived a traditional Bedouin lifestyle, traveling around the deserts of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and sleeping in tents under skies dark enough to be filled with stars. After being forced by boundary-loving authorities to settle in a gender-segregated family compound her father’s wanderlust remained, which is how he ended up in Seattle unable to speak English but still managing
Jan 05, 2014 Jalilah rated it really liked it
Although this book drew me in from the start, I was initially frustrated by the way Al -Maria skipped over many years omitting many details of her life. It left me with many unanswered questions. For instance I wondered if her father ever ended up studying, if her parents ever actually divorced, if her mother ever recovered from the shock of her father marrying a second wife or how her relationship to her sister was. However at a certain point it became clear that although The Girl Who Fell To E ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Anyone who reads memoirs knows that a successful one requires two distinct elements: an interesting life, and strong writing skills. By memoir standards, Sophia Al-Maria’s life is promising: her father is a Bedouin from Qatar, her mother an American from rural Washington; she grows up in the U.S. but moves to Doha as a teenager to live with her father’s family, then attends college in Cairo. That clash of cultures seen through the eyes of a modern teen, interested in sci-fi and video games, prov ...more
Dec 23, 2012 Malda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I always wanted to read a book written by a young Arab author touching on existing normal Arab life. Something that was more profound than the stuff that came out earlier this year about life in Dubai. Something that spoke to a generation of girls who lost their identities living away from their home countries in the midst of so many different nationalities, cultures and religions. A book that dealt with issues around Islam and conservatism in the modern way we grew up in and struggled to find t ...more
Feb 18, 2013 Sarah rated it it was ok
Towards the end of the book, there's a scene where Sofia al-Maria reviews the video tapes she made during a summer job filming Bedouin in the Sinai as part of an ethnographic research project, and realizes to her horror that much of the tapes consist not of revealing footage of her Bedouin subjects' lives, but of...her talking about herself!

The same could be said of this pleasant but ultimately disappointing book. Sofia moves between fascinatingly different worlds--American small town, resettled
This book is the story of a woman with a Qatari father and an American mother and her life growing up in Qatar, the US, and Egypt. I felt like the author skimmed over the things that were really interesting, and gave too much information about the less interesting parts of her life. I wanted to hear more about her parents and their relationship. Her mother and father met with very little language in common and in a short period of time they were married and she converted to Islam, and not much m ...more
Debra Anne
Part Seattle-an, part Bedouin, part starseed, Sophia Al-Maria gently rattles stereotypes by simply telling her experience as a child of "Other" ethnicity.

The first stereotype she rattles is that of fierce Muslim taboos about sexuality. Nowhere does she say it isn't true that girls are punished harshly for pressing sexual boundaries, but her own story suggests that perhaps this isn't as universal as Americans have been given to believe. She is technically a bastard since Matar and Gale weren't m
Dec 14, 2012 Caren rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I stayed up way too late two nights in a row, reading this book obsessively. The author has had a very unusual life and provides an intimate look inside two very different cultures. Her Bedouin father met her American mother when he went to Tacoma, Washington to study. She was the result of their love affair and marriage. After the family moves to Qatar, however, things begin to fall apart as her father is away from home three weeks out of four, working on an oil rig. When he marries a second wi ...more
Jan 31, 2013 Catherine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
The book began nicely with Al-Maria outlining her father’s Bedouin boyhood and cultural background--although awkwardly written because it wasn’t clear who she was referring to until many pages in--and how he ended up in Puyallup, Washington and met the author’s mother. Their unlikely meeting and love story was interesting and entertaining.

As the story moves into Al-Maria’s childhood and teenage years bouncing back and forth between the Middle East and Washington, it loses a lot of steam and jus
Ibrahim Al-Khulaifi
بداية جيدة لهذه السيرة الذاتية، والمكتوبة باسلوب مستقبلي وكوميدي بنفس الوقت. لكن مع تقليب الصفحات بدأت ملامح التناقضات التاريخية و الحياة في قطر في تلك الفترة بالظهور على النص. كنت اتمنى أن يتم مراجعة الكتاب مع أشخاص عاصروا تلك الفترة من قطر حتى لا تصبح القصة ركيكة كباقي الكتب الأجنبية التي حاولت أن تصور المجتمع الخليجي بنظرة غربية والتي تخرج في النهاية صورة مغلوطة وبمسحة هوليودية.

ككتاب موجه للقراء الأمريكيين (كما ذكرت الكاتبة في المقدمة) يبدو لي مقبول، أما أن يكون موجه للعرب والخليجيين.. فهو ب
Julie Barrett
Mar 31, 2014 Julie Barrett rated it liked it
I really loved the first part of this memoir but towards the end it all fizzled out. I got the impression that Sophia/Safya had absolutely no idea how to end the book. That's a problem with memoirs written by young people, especially as young as she is (born in 1983). You are still living your life and so once you get beyond writing about your childhood, you are confronted with writing about your adult life - which you are currently living and thus it is hard to get perspective. She probably sho ...more
This book is a coming-of-age story of a girl from the state of Washington who goes to live in Qatar and studies at the American University in Egypt. Her mother's from Washington, and her father's from Qatar. It's nice to know about for a few reasons. First, it offers a rare understanding of how someone in the author's situation has a mixed identity (nationality, language, culture). Second, it provides a common-but-timeless account of growing up through childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood ...more
Alex Linschoten
Feb 23, 2015 Alex Linschoten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: qatar
Much better than I had expected. This is the memoir of a girl who grows up between an American family/childhood and her Bedouin family, constantly shifting from one to the other. Well written and sensitive to the realities of life as a young woman in a Qatari Bedouin semi-tribal environment.
Mar 04, 2016 Iza rated it liked it
The beginning of the book is quite confusing, but it gets more interesting while you keep reading. I liked the way the author shows the Arab culture and its influence in her life.
Allaire Younica
May 10, 2013 Allaire Younica rated it did not like it
I really expected there to be some wisdom or insight that Sophia gained from her interesting life and experiences that she would share that would make the book worth reading. But it seems that her conclusion was that there really is no meaning to life, love or sex, and life is merely a compilation of unrelated experiences without meaning. This would appeal to people who don't believe that they can make what they want of this life and don't take responsibility for their response to the experience ...more
Nitya Sivasubramanian
Jul 09, 2014 Nitya Sivasubramanian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5star
Growing up as a student at an American school in the Middle East with Indian parents, I'd say I'm pretty familiar with owning a fluid cultural identity. So when I heard about this book, written by a girl who must have been just a year or two behind me in school, I snagged it hoping to see familiar faces and places.

Instead, I was thrown headlong into worlds completely unlike anything I've ever experienced before. While the America I knew was the Santa Monica and Orlando of my summers, Sophia liv
Feb 28, 2014 Tammie rated it really liked it
Sophia Al-Maria has written a marvelous memoir about her life straddling two different worlds. Born from the union of American and Arab parents Sophia never quite fits in. Her American mother eventually ships her off to live in the Middle East with her fathers family when the tenuous teen years become too much to shoulder. Navigating the tribal expectation as an Arab women creates opportunities for clandestine rendezvous. Teen age resistance to adult authority seems to permeate all cultures. Liv ...more
Oct 26, 2015 Sonja rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is quite a story of a young woman's coming-of-age between two worlds: Bedouin Qatar and Washington state. She is a child of an Arab Bedouin father and an American farm girl and must find her place in the world. She ends up in Cairo, on a rat-infested house boat on the Nile and finds her way to AUC where she begins to discover herself and her people. An intriguing read.
An interesting memoir that moves quickly, filled more with incident that insight. I picked up Al-Maria's memoir because it was name-checked in the acknowledgements of The Peripheral. Al-Maria's story of searching for her identity as she traverses American and Arabic society is interesting & she brings up plenty of topics that curious readers can research themselves. But I frequently wanted to hear more about certain things she brought up. For instance, the author mentions reading Dune while ...more
Nov 28, 2015 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This was a memoir I bought for my middle school library. Sophia has an American mother and a Bedouin father and she is stretched across two worlds. I liked the contradiction between her life in Washington and her life in Qatar. Learning about her culture and some of the Muslim ways of life was interesting. As she gets older, she tries to figure out where she fits in and how she will live. Towards the end, there are a few parts that make the memoir a little more mature than my 6th graders can han ...more
Esther Bradley-detally
Sep 19, 2013 Esther Bradley-detally rated it it was amazing
Compelling - widest range of bicoastal life of anyone on the planet; intriguing writer, a gripper-talented writer speaks of her life from the Pacific Northwest to the desert in Arabian gulf; urban to nomadic, amazing. I'm going to look for this author, and I wish her the absolute best!
May 12, 2014 Melinda rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
The Girl Who Fell to Earth delves into cultural complexities in an honest manner in which others towing the fine line between two cultures can relate and understand. A great coming of age story all will enjoy, especially those dealing with disparity in ethnicity.

Al-Maria expresses empathy and warmth to her family and her multi cultural background. As a woman of two different cultures I found this book very appealing and sentiments relatable. I have always embraced my 'uniqueness' and have squ
Ibtihaj Al Harthi
Jan 13, 2016 Ibtihaj Al Harthi rated it liked it
قرأت النسخة العربية من هذا الكتاب عن دار بلومزبري-مؤسسة قطر، ترجمة زياد زيادي، أحببت التجربة التي مرت بها الكاتبة وأعتقد أن كل شخص قد مر بأزمة في الهوية سواء كانت في اللغة، أو في الثقافة، أو في المكان سيجد الكثير من نقاط التقاطع مع هذا الكتاب، أحببت كثيرًا وصف الكاتبة لعائلتها وحياتها البدوية والشعور بالإنتماء إلى العشيرة الذي وصفته جيدًا وبذكاء.
لا أعرف إن كنت أحببت بناء الكتاب كثيرًا واختيار الكاتبة لكيفية إنهاء سيرتها، شعرت بأن هنالك الكثير من الأشياء التي لم تقال وأن أحداث السيرة عالجت السطح
Feb 14, 2014 coffeealias rated it really liked it
Sophia Al-Maria (is that really her last name?) has written a loquacious, fun-to-read memoir about navigating her confusing teenage years within the international scene. Teenage life, universally confusing, was especially so for her, the improbable daughter of a Qatari Bedouin and an Oregon farm girl straddling two distinct cultures. Her story is entirely her own. The reader never finds out if her parents divorce, if her mother comes to terms with her husband taking a second wife, what becomes o ...more
May 07, 2013 Kelli rated it it was ok
Sophia Al-Maria's memoir focuses on her life growing up in Washington State, Qatar and Cairo. Al-Maria's father is from a Bedouin tribe in Qatar and her mother is from Washington. Over the course of her childhood and teen years, Al-Sophia moves from the U.S. to Qatar and then back again. While in Qatar during her teen years, she lives with her extended Bedouin family who had been relocated from their nomadic lifestyle in the desert to a government created urban setting.

The subject matter for th
Terry Bartlett-visser
Mar 18, 2013 Terry Bartlett-visser rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book because of its very different subject matter, perspective taking, and cultural comparisons, all from the authors own views and experiences. The Author's mother is American and father is Bedouin. They are polar opposites when it comes to cultural upbringing but end up falling in love, marrying and having children. Cultural differences do divide them eventually and this book is the author’s memories and experiences as she "bounces" between two cultures. The author’s co ...more
Erin Sterling
For a woman who does not seem much older than me, her memoir of growing up between a farm in the Pacific Northwest and Qatar is a fascinating, well-written, intellectual, cross-cultural coming-of-age memoir that expands and breaks your ideas of "the Middle East" with regards to gender expectations, cultures, freedom of expression, etc. Starts a little slowly (it's not clear it's a memoir at first except from the title because it starts with the love story of her parents), but picks up.
Apr 25, 2013 fets rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel-novel
While I identify with many aspects of the author’s story, I want to commend her for successfully achieving the feat of writing about the intimate details of her life (and her family’s), without turning her account into a sensationalistic report about a ‘mysterious, incomprehensible, backward’ Arab/Bedouin world. We are invited to discover her new world with her, and as she does her best to adjust and stay out of trouble (she really does conform for a long period!), we are given what seems to me ...more
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