Saturday, January 1, 2011

Where the Streets Had a Name

Where the Streets Had a Name
By Randa Abdel-Fattah
Scholastic, 2010. 313 pgs. Middle Grade Fiction

Hayaat is thirteen years old and lives in Bethlehem, where her family has been forced to relocate after the creation of Israel and subsequent conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians. A Muslim Palestinian, Hayaat must live with curfews and restrictions on travel. Although her family lives only six miles from their beloved Jerusalem, they are not allowed to go there. However, Hayatt believes that getting a jarful of soil from her grandmother's (former) land in Jerusalem, she will be able to prolong her grandmother's life. So Hayaat and her best friend Samy, a Christian Palestinian, set out for Jerusalem.

This book is phenomenal. Have grown up in the U.S., I think there's definitely a bias toward Israelis and against Palestinians, since the U.S. has traditionally been an ally of Israel's. I think there's a prejudice toward Palestinians, thinking they're all a bunch of Muslim terrorists. However, this book does much to encourage readers to think about the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts and see how there are many similarities between the peoples; just as many Jews wanted a place to live and feel safe following the Holocaust, Palestinians wanted to have their ancestral land. There are some very thought-provoking scenes in this book and characters of a variety of faiths (Jews, Muslims, and Christians) representing a variety of beliefs. It's also a great coming-of-age story as Hayaat faces her fears and finds peace in herself and hope in the future even in a situation where it would be tempting to lose hope. Although this book is being promoted as Abdel-Fattah's "middle-grade debut" (she's written two other great books for young adults), I think the story is interesting enough to drawn in older readers as well.

Four stars.

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