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Towelhead

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  3,373 Ratings  ·  520 Reviews
Experienced in ways she shouldn't be, 13-year-old Jasira secretly craves protection from her abusive father and a lecherous neighbor in this disturbing first novel by Erian. The novel opens as Jasira's mother, jealous of her boyfriend's interest in her daughter, sends the girl to Houston to live with her father. Though eager to please him, Jasira finds her father cold, sho ...more
Hardcover, 321 pages
Published April 6th 2005 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2005)
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Ayesha Butt It actually is much overwhelming. I just started it yesterday and I'm overly anxious of the vents enfolding in Jasira's life at such an early age. I'm…moreIt actually is much overwhelming. I just started it yesterday and I'm overly anxious of the vents enfolding in Jasira's life at such an early age. I'm twenty and yet it's still uncomfortable for me too read it. Definitely not something I'd want me teenage sister to read, perhaps ever.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Alecia Whitaker
Apr 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE
Warning: it contains graphic language.
Warning: it will break your heart.
The main character is a 13 year old girl who experiences moving to a new state, having no one to turn to when her body starts to grow and change, parents of different races in an ugly divorce, being the target of racism, and physical and sexual abuse all in the course of one school year.
There is a lot of dialogue and it's a VERY FAST READ. I couldn't put it down. I love this book. My heart was truly breaking for this girl an
...more
Rakisha
Aug 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 12-17-year-old girls and their parents
*sigh*

I picked up the book Towelhead: A novel because I was intrigued by the New York Times' review of the movie directed by Alan Ball (of Six Feet Under and American Beauty). I also picked it up, because I'm always interested in how authors' portray the burgeoning sexuality of preteen and teen girls especially now that teenagers seem more sexualized than ever. Towelhead did a good job of exploring 13-year-old Jasria's sexuality. The proof is by how uncomfortable I felt reading this book.

In ord
...more
LARRY
Mar 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
As posted in [http://www.amazon.com]:

Wow! I'm not sure if I'm supposed to like the book because of the style of writing and the bold approach of a topic or if I'm supposed to hate it because of a sensitive topic. I can say one thing...that Erian didn't hold back her creative juices. It's so good I thought that it was actually a memoir.

Feeling threatened by her daughter, especially when her boyfriend spills a revelation, thirteen-year-old Jasira is sent to live with her Lebanese father in Housto
...more
Gitte


A dark and sad story about sexual abuse, racism, neglect and violence, but also a humorous page-turner about growing up and discovering your sexuality, told in a light tone that will make you laugh.

The Beginning: My mother's boyfriend got a crush on me, so she sent me to live with Daddy.

Jasira, an Arab-American girl of 13, is sent off to live with her father whom she hardly knows. We follow her quest for love and acceptance as she discovers her sexuality and tries hard to make friends in a pla
...more
Sara
Wry, risky, intensely readable. I've never read a more earnest narrative voice that depicted the inner life of a thirteen year old girl. Even though Jasira's adolescent experience was nothing like mine, Erian's crystalline writing made it mine. I cringed for her, I was angry for her, I loved her and wished her well when I had to leave her. I worried as I got to the climax that the wheels were going to fall off but it ends with such a lovely, hopeful moment that I really can't fault Erian for a l ...more
Kayla
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up really not knowing what I was getting myself into. The further I read, the more I questioned whether or not I should continue. I did finish it, however, probably because of my incessant curiosity on how a story will end.

I am not exactly sure whether or not I really enjoyed this book. I do know I will not be recommending it to anyone because of the sensitive material. At times I really felt like the protagonist was beyond naive and the other characters were unrealistically s
...more
Elyse
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this YEARS ago. I saw it come through the want-to-read dailies... And I was brought right into the story. Sad... Raw... A little intense.
Irina
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irina-s-books
4.5 stars. Could not put it down. It really made me think deeply about children and their need for affection,understanding & knowledge. Deeply compelling & unique in its honesty.
Tony DuShane
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing


towelhead is spectacular.
Jon
Apr 12, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reminiscent of Diary of a Teenage Girl, Towelhead is a flawed 1st novel that is equal parts clumsy and poignant. Detailing a year in the life of Jasira, a 13-year-old girl from a broken home with an American mother and an Arab father, the novel feels a little overstuffed. There are far too many plates that the author, Alicia Erian, tries to keep spinning as she tackles burgeoning female sexuality, sexual and physical abuse, racism, the culture clash between American born children and their forei ...more
Banafsheh Serov
Jan 11, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jasira, a 13 year old Arab-American girl has been sent by her mother to live with the Lebanese father she barely knows. Jasira is not happy living with her father; he alienates her with his strict rules, harsh punishments and lack of affection. Alone and confused about her rapidly changing body she looks to people around her to fill the void. She meets her neighbour Melina who becomes Jasira’s confidant and protector, taking on the parental responsibilities neglected by Jasira’s parents. She als ...more
Hugh Jones
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! What I liked about it was the "greyness" of it. I first saw the movie on TV...or part of the movie and it made me too uncomfortable, but there definitely was something to it, so I thought I'd read the book. Now I'd like to see the movie again. Really, there are no perfectly "good" characters, and no really "bad" characters, including the young girl who was the center of the story. Lots of sexual content, and not for the faint of heart! What did Freud call us when we are young. ...more
Jamie Felton
Coming-of-age story starring an extremely sexually precocious thirteen year old whose father is a control freak and whose mother is immature and irresponsible. She sends Jasira to live with her father because she perceives that her boyfriend is paying too much attention to her daughter. It is difficult to read this without wanting to place blame on one parent or the other for how Jasira behaves with men; however, Jasira too seems to be responsible for some of what happens to her. Although in the ...more
Monica
Jun 03, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man. What can I say about this book? It was kind of an emotional roller-coaster ride. I read the whole thing in about a week and a half, so if you're looking for something that will keep your interest, this will not disappoint. But be prepared to feel violated. I was so disturbed by every single one of the characters (our heroine included) and could not decide who to get behind. As soon as I would start to feel the slightest bit of empathy for the girl, or her father, or her boyfriend, or whomev ...more
Anina
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
I really liked this and I read it in one day because I couldn't put it down...I even missed Project Runway. Anyhow, it's not for everyone which is why I gave it 4 not 5 stars. It's from the perspective of a 13 year old girl who is sexually abused/confused by all the people who are supposed to be taking care of her. However she is very clever and there's a lot of dark humor in it so it's not terribly depressing really. There is sex on every page, I thought it was an accurate portrayal of hormone ...more
Amanda
Ok, NOT what I was expecting. Much less about culture class and way more about statutory rape than I thought it would be. Not that I hated it, but it just wasn't what I thought it was going to be. Not really sure how I feel about the main character....She's one that you want to hug and smack all at the same time.
Henry
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book Towelhead had a dramatic impact upon me. When Jasira was slapped, I felt it. I even felt tired and desensitized when, three quarters into the book, she had been slapped so many times that its occurrence almost seemed normal. I say this in spite of running the risk of giving you an impression of Towelhead that appears to be all too common: that it’s a book about child abuse, or a book about sexual abuse, or a book about racism. Towelhead isn’t any of these things. This is a book through ...more
Benji
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Abbey Morse
Nov 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Alicia Erian’s Towelhead completely enraptured me, never once leaving my hands. Whether I was in second period geometry or waiting for a train, I was constantly sneaking a peak at what was to come next, gobbling up page after page of the engrossing novel. The story began with the main character, Jasira, explaining why she had been sent to live with her Lebanese father, Rifat, in Houston, Texas. After her mother’s boyfriend, Barry, confessed to Jasira’s mother, Gail, that he had sexual feelings f
...more
Marnie Morales
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I laughed out loud several times during this book, but maybe it was more of a nervous chuckle. I don't really consider myself a prude, but this was one of the more sexually explicit books I've read in awhile dealing with the "eww" factor of an adult and a young, young girl, so while I was reading this on the bus, I have to admit that I got embarrassed and uncomfortable. That was after I was uncomfortable reading the book on the bus because of the title; I had to go out and get a book cover for i ...more
Aaron Price
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Older audiences. This is not a book for children.
Recommended to Aaron by: Read it for a class
TRIGGER WARNING: Statutory Rape/Molestation

This book was probably one of the best books I've ever read as far as the writing and structure go. I feel like everything that the author put into this book was there for a reason. The chapter breaks, where she introduces characters, which scenes she chooses to dramatize, and even different character's word choices were so intentional and it really made this really heavy book, very readable.

That being said, I hated this book for all of the right reason
...more
Dina
May 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
All in all, this was a quick fast-paced read. The story kept me wanting to know what will happen next.

But... I was so annoyed by the lack of research. The author says it took her 3 years to write the book. Has she not once opened an Atlas? How can she claim Lebanon is in North Africa? That was mentioned twice actually!
Then when the lebanese grandmother talks with Jasira on the phone, why would she use the formal 'vous' form ? This looked like a Google Translate translation. And if she had acce
...more
Veronica
Dec 13, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I dont know if I will finish this......

Okay, I did finish it. It was intriguing in a yucky way. It was a really weird book to read. I felt as if I was somehow complicit in what happened to her because I didn't stop reading about it. I will not see this movie. I could not imagine how a movie of this book could be made in some tasteful way. The only really interesting thing was that the story came from her perspective and that she did not think she was a victim in this and up until the end, wanted
...more
CuriousLibrarian
Jul 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
This is a 2.5 from me.

I read this on a plane ride. I finished it, but I think it was more circumstances and a horrid fascination than actual interest. I wanted to make sure Jasira was okay in the end.

The poor girl is subjected to abuse (emotional, physical, and sexual), racism and neglect. And it seemed like the only thing this book had going for it was sex. As if that is the only thing 13-yr-old girls think about. In Jasira's case, given her circumstances and lack of information it makes a litt
...more
Sarah
I'm very eager (and also a bit anxious) to see what Alan Ball's film version of this book will be like. The story had elements of 'American Beauty' (older man/young girl, suburbia, racial issues, the military, etc) but unlike the former, young Jasira is such an innocent that I found myself cringing to read page after page of how she has been taken advantage of. The novel is written from her point of view, which makes her innocence even more realistic and brutally honest. At times I felt like I w ...more
Danielle
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
I could not put this book down. I read it when I was supposed to be working, I read it while eating, I read it while watching American Horror Story, and I stayed up late to finish it.

The synopsis gives you hints of what's to come, but I still wasn't fully prepared for what happened. Not at all. Being inside Jasira's mind was frustrating at times, but her story was amazing. Sad, heartbreaking, and amazing. Her parents were emotionally neglectful and manipulative, but I think they cared somewhat,
...more
Ian
Jun 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Satisfyingly ambiguous. The abusive father has a strange charm about him, the rapist is held in disturbingly high esteem by his victim, the horny boyfriend is convincingly both kind and totally self-absorbed, and the narrator's mix of painful awkwardness and total obliviousness rings true. Ultimately nobody behaves quite as you'd expect them to. But I don't know, I didn't think about sex this much when I was 13. Then again, I didn't grow up in Texas.
Emily
Nov 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Emily by: Kate Hensley
This is very powerful book telling a modern day story of culture clash, family dysfunction, child abuse, sexual self-discovery, and finally, redemption. It is "Lolita" told from the girl's point of view - and not a pleasant one at that. Jasira tells her shocking story in a graphic & plainspoken manner that lends a sense of pathos to the escalating events. It's a quick read, with a hopeful ending. I'll probably read it again, and recommend it my teen mom book group too.
Marguerite
I hated this. Props to Alicia Erian for some visceral writing, but the topic turned my stomach, so much so that I closed the book and returned it to the library. I'm a lifelong defender of the First Amendment, but bothered, too, that the book is available at the library. So, credit the author for prompting a debate about free speech, too.
Anne
May 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ug, I hated this book. Terrible. Filled with sterotypes and absolutely no interesting characters. There is something about authors of my generation (late 20s to late 30s) where so many of their books sound like they all took the same creative writing class. I read this in one afternoon just so I wouldn't have to read it any longer...
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Alicia Erian is an American novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and film director.
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“I began to think that my body was the most special thing in the world. Better than other bodies, even. Not because of the way it looked, but because of all the things it could do. All the different buttons there were to push. I wanted to find out what every single one of them was. I wanted to feel as good as possible.” 5 likes
“For dinner, we had thin-crust pizza at a place called Panjo's. Daddy said that it was his favourite and that he ate there a lot. He said the last time he'd been there, he'd come with a woman from work, on a date. He said he'd liked her quite a bit until she took out a cigarette. The he realised she was stupid. I thought she was stupid, too, not because she smoked, but because she'd gone on a date with Daddy.” 3 likes
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