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The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,261 ratings  ·  207 reviews
Syrian immigrant Khadra Shamy is growing up in a devout, tightly knit Muslim family in 1970s Indiana, at the crossroads of bad polyester and Islamic dress codes. Along with her brother Eyad and her African-American friends, Hakim and Hanifa, she bikes the Indianapolis streets exploring the fault-lines between “Muslim” and “American.”

When her picture-perfect marriage goes s
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by PublicAffairs (first published August 22nd 2006)
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3.71  · 
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 ·  1,261 ratings  ·  207 reviews

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Rebecca McNutt
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Blending retro Seventies nostalgia with a young woman's story of friendship and reconnecting with her culture, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is an exciting and vibrant book with a lot of unexpected thrilling moments.
Parts of this book I would rate five stars and parts of it I would rate less than one. That's how it usually is with works that try to be super-duper-awesome-sauce at social justice, but stop at the bare level of analyzing the genocide that is normalized discourse. Look. Freedom of diverse religions with the emphasis on the free of all religions necessarily limiting the abusive tendencies of any: great. Freedom of diverse religions intersecting with freedom of diverse races, again with the above ...more
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: racially-diverse
I'd recommended Girl in the Tangerine Scarf for learning about Muslim American subcultures. Starting this, I thought, "Nice to see myself on the page, but this could get tedious after a while." Even though my upbringing wasn't nearly as religiously observant as that of the protagonist, Khadra, the ideas were well-worn for me. I liked seeing the diversity of Muslim practice and cultures reflected here, which was a lot more nuanced than the American popular perception (e.g. immigrant vs. second ge ...more
Jun 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, especially Muslims & those seeking insight into American Muslim communities
I thought this book really captured what its like to grow up as an American Muslim- the author's attention to detail helps to capture the little idiosyncracies & contradictions within the community & the struggles the American-born have in confronting/reconciling with immigrant Islam. The main character's journey through various phases/types of Islam was done especially well. I also thought the book was good in showing the problems & issues within the American Muslim community while ...more
Mohja Kahf's fiction debut tells the story of Khadra Shamy, a Syrian Muslim girl who, at a young age, moves with her family to the United States during the 1970s, and grows up in Indiana. Khadra's parents struggle to raise their children in accordance with Islamic values, while awash in a mostly Caucasian, Christian, and very American environment. The reader follows Khadra's journey to understand herself as an American Muslim well into adulthood. She travels to Syria after her marriage breaks do ...more
May 13, 2007 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is long and dense, but well worth the investment. Though this story is about Khadra, a Syrian-American Muslim who grows up in Indiana in the 1970s and 80s, it's really the story of finding a balance between your parents' beliefs and histories and your own. This could be the story of almost any child of immigrants, with slight modifications for culture and religion.

The plot is too complex to go into detail here, but if you're looking for a book that explores the c
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In about 15 years, “Muslim Fiction” is going to claim it’s rightful place as a distinct and thriving genre, and The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf will be the first book in the canon.

Mohja Kahf’s book is a wildly familiar look into life in a Muslim-American family that rings true for people in all corners of the country (and probably Canada). While some of the other reviews here say this is a good read for non-Muslims who want a primer on the lives of Muslim Americans, let me say that I don’t think
Nov 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Making peace with disillusionment
Mohja Kahf presents an insider’s loving view of Islam through this coming-of-age immigrant novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf . Khadra Shamy, a young Syrian girl, moves to Indiana with her family to be missionaries to the evil Western world and help the American Muslims navigate the difficulties in clashes between shariah law and American law. They face many difficulties as they build the small Dawah Center into an established Muslim community. Khadra struggl
Alessandra Trindle
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
(Normally this book would be more of a 4 than a 5, but given our current climate of Islamphobia and Muslim extremism, I feel like the spiritual journey taken by Khadra Shamy is one that is important for us all).

Khadra Shamy's family is from Syria. They're Muslim. Her parents come to America to attend college in Colorado and upon graduating, her father finds himself accepting a position at a Muslim outreach center in Indianapolis, IN. It's the 70s in the Heartland, and Muslims are viewed with sus
Sep 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
I heard about this on an NPR broadcast and was really interested by the premise - a Syrian immigrant girl growing up Muslim in the heartland. I found the writing a bit stilted at first, but then became absorbed in the story and in the view of the culture that Khadra grows up in. So many interesting traditions, stories, and ideas, even about things as mundane as cleanliness, that made me feel like the book opened up a whole new world for me. I read some comments saying that it seems like this boo ...more
Karen Keyworth
Dec 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Reading The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf felt strange to me - in a good way. It was the first time I had ever read a book in which I felt like I could have been on the next page, a part of the story. I KNOW the community; I have dealt with every character she described. It felt like "coming home" to a place I know and love with all its warts and scars.

The writing style was a bit sparse for my taste, hence the 4 stars rather than 5. But the story was riviting. I think there is a universal truth to
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this for an Islamic feminist class at my university, so I had the benefit of reading it with Muslim women nearby who grew up with similar experiences. It helped flesh out this story, which does its best to cover ALL the different varieties of backgrounds and traditions Muslim-Americans grow up with and try to incorporate their lives. A very, very good story if you're looking to learn something.
gingey reads
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Margaret Carmel
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
"A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", except with Muslims and in Indiana.

I dig coming of age stories, and stories about Islam because i'm a Middle Eastern studies student, so naturally I really enjoyed reading this book. Kahf uses beautiful prose to tell the story of Khadra's growth and change in her faith starting with her fundamentalist upbringing in Indiana, through a disastrous marriage, and to the streets of Damascus. I loved all of the complex themes and the multifaceted discussion of Islam. This b
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
I selected this book to fulfill the challenge category of a book set in my home state. I found it to be compellingly written, and quite informative of a faith other than my own.
Daughters Of Abraham
Several women said this was the best book we have read thus far, and at the same time it brought out painful expressions related to race and culture. Our book group seemed to feel that this is an informative book that has a healthy sense of resolve at the end. There was an energetic discussion about a woman’s inward and outward relationship with the Hijab (and other forms of head coverings observed by our group members) and also the varying feelings about wearing it among different generations o ...more
Colleen Clark
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A young woman's coming of age story; coming of age as an American Muslim of Syrian-born parents in Indianapolis. An earlier working title was "Greetings from Islamistan, Indiana." Time is from the 1970's to the early 90's. The girl is Khadra, with one older and one younger brother. Her parents are political refugees from Syria but never talk about it. The politics are in the background but not off stage.

I chose to read it because the author is one of the contributors to the book "The Veil" which
Nicole Duran
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
beautiful learning

With exquisite, poetic prose, Kahf teaches us so much about the diversity of American Muslims. You can see the commonalities between the immigrant Muslim community and the conservative Midwestern culture, between the child of Christian missionaries and the child of those commissioned to shore up and educate the faith and practice of Muslims in America, between the orthodox Jewish woman and the conservative Muslim woman, and the outsiderness of any religious person In secular so
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club, fiction
This book is about growing up Muslim in Indiana in the 1970s. I think that there was a lot that I didn’t get from the first reading, lacking the cultural references, but overall I found this book enjoyable. Really the main character as she develops into a woman is searching her spiritual, cultural, feminist, intellectual and religious identity. And while all her cues were different than mine, I felt that it was still identifiable. Her parents are fundamentalist Islam, but I liked them. And Kahdj ...more
Dec 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
i felt quiet sad when the book got finished, i want it to go on, like that, so i could make it my life long company. Its highly relatable for me, for what i am and the phases am i living through. Its a book of life, how you seek yourself in and out, to hold on to self and yet not loose the connect with the outer world. It shows how distinct cultural worlds blur into, convergences and divergences. It taught me a lot.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book about a Muslim girl growing up in Indiana. I found the fact that the author showed the Muslim characters as faulted as the Americans genuine. The journey the main character takes could have been one that a girl growing up in any strict religious family could take, which made it even easier to relate to her. The writing wasn't anything fancy, and there were quite a few typos, but I thought the story was compelling and something all non-muslims should read.
Katie M.
Jan 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
The writing isn't particularly good but the story is most excellent... a frank, engaging, down-to-earth narrative about growing up Muslim American that doesn't try to pull any punches or pretty up the experience of dealing with malicious and/or kindly well-meaning racism at every turn. It also deftly explores the experience of being too "foreign" for America but too American to go anywhere else, and looks at how one woman navigates these forces and works to make of her life what she wants to.
pani Katarzyna
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautiful book. The language is superb, and I expected no less because Mohja Kahf is also an excellent poet, but the topic! Young Muslim American-Syrian woman looking for her own understanding and her own expression of spirituality. It's truly amazing how many questions her, no more than 30 years long, existence on these 400-something pages can answer. Enjoyed every single sentence. 4.5 out of 5.
Apr 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A very honest look at the immigrant Muslim seems to be based off the author's experience growing up near ISNA headquarters. Rather dramatized in parts, it is nontheless a well-written story of growth, self-exploration, and finding one's self and spirituality. Definitely the first "good" Muslim-American piece of literature I've come across.
McKenzie Watson
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dana Portwood
Earlier this year I decided I want to read more books by diverse authors. I especially want to read more from the perspective of the Islamic community, both here and abroad. One of the reasons I enjoy reading is because it opens me to perspectives and experiences that I may not ever have otherwise. I've read multiple books by Middle Eastern authors this year, but The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf is the first I have read from the perspective of a Muslim woman living in America.

Set in Indiana in th
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a very, very hefty book. It's a long one. But despite this obvious conclusion (the physical nature of the book speaks for itself), it's a book you should read continuously from start to finish in the shortest amount possible. "Continuously" not referring to quickly, rather, read it as you would watch a movie; the flow is very cinematic, as fluid as frames of a movie or moments of life.

I would give this novel a 4, but I believe a 3.5 is closer to what I would regard the entirety as. The b
Shaimaa Mazareeb
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great novel about a Muslim immigrant woman which does not end with the protagonist getting rid of her veil following the stereotype! I found Khadra Shamy a representative of many Muslim women in the modern world, not only the immigrant ones. Many religious practices make her question them at a certain stage after being indoctrinated and believing in them for years. As a result, she clings more to religion and faith after questioning and exploring them, but this time she does through her own vi ...more
Karla Bays
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A deep look at faith and culture - what it means to be raised in a particular faith and how questioning that faith impacts your identity. Khadra is raised in Indiana by Syrian immigrants who are fundamentalist Muslims. Extremely devout as a child, as she grows up, Khadra begins to question the rules, customs and values of her tight-knit community. Ultimately, she must carve out a path for herself in which she can be true to herself, her faith and her values - without completely abandoning her up ...more
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What do you think? 1 2 Jul 16, 2017 03:01PM  
Use for a college freshman intro to lit/comp class 1 6 Dec 27, 2015 09:16AM  

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Mohja Kahf (born 1967, Damascus, Syria) is an Arab-American poet and author.

Kahf moved to the United States in 1971. Her family has been involved in Syrian opposition politics, a theme reflected in the life of her character Khadra of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf.

She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from Rutgers University and is currently an associate professor of comparative litera
“I'm not defending their views. I'm defending their right to have their views. There's a difference.” 14 likes
“Generally speaking, Americans cussed, smoke, and drank, and the Shamys had it on good authority that a fair number of them used drugs. Americans dated and fornicated and committed adultery. They had broken families and lots of divorces. Americans were not generous or hospitable like Uncle Abdulla and Aunt Fatma; they invited people to their houses only a few at a times, and didn't even let them bring their children, and only fed them little tiny portions of food they called courses on big empty plates they called good china. Plus, Americans ate out wastefully often...

Americans believed the individual was more important than the family, and money was more important than anything. Khadra's dad said Americans threw out their sons and daughters when they turned eighteen unless they could pay rent--to their own parents! And, at the other end, they threw their parents into nursing homes when they got old. This, although they took slavish care of mere dogs. All in all, Americans led shallow, wasteful, materialistic lives.”
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