myhead.jpgThe last place I'd expect to find a book like this is at Save-On-Foods (which, in case you didn't figure it out already, is a supermarket). But that was, indeed, where I came across it the other day.

“Does My Head Look Big In This?” by Randa Abdel-Fattah seems to be a pretty interesting book – of teen “chick lit” genre, but with an Islamic/Muslim (not sure which word to use here… see MuslimVillage discussion below) twist. To save myself time (and the battery on my laptop is threatening to run out on me), here are links to several blurbs/reviews on the book:

  • Looking For Randa
  • NZGirl review: Does my head look big in this? is a universal tale of high school angst with teeth. Author Randa Abdel-Fattah writes with razor sharp wit and totally understands what it is like to be a teenage girl.
  • Buy the book from Amazon!
  • MuslimVillage discusses the book, with some important and interesting points being brought up.

I didn't buy the book because it was in hardcover and way too expensive; although if it comes out in paperback (or if my library has it), I'll buy it/borrow it then. I did, however, manage to read the first chapter – and I liked it.

True, the main character – Amal – isn't perfect, or what most of us here would expect or approve of in a Muslimah (even if she's a teen adolescent youth). But all things considered, especially the demographic group to whom this book is targeted, I think it's pretty good.

Amal is not so much a role model, as simply someone other young Muslimahs who are struggling with issues of high school and hijaab can actually relate to… and I do think that's important. What I like the best is that this book is written in a style that most teen girls are already familiar and comfortable with – of the same genre as the Princess Diaries, the Alice series, and more (and no, I don't read this books; I just know that other teen girls read them!) – yet it talks about a Muslimah actually trying to better herself, while not being preachy.

In any case, having not read the entire book (yet) I can't say all that much about it except that I'd recommend it for some girls – with the neccessary warnings that everything she does isn't Islamically acceptable, and the rest of it.

(Oh, and if anyone knows of any other books like this – aside from Umm Zakiyya's If I Should Speak trilogy – please do let me know! I'm keeping my eyes peeled for good Muslim fiction…)

10 Things I Hate About Me - another book, same sort of subject matter, by the same author.

47 Responses

  1. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    You know, one of the most disappointing things about women in hijab is that you expect them to be different from ‘other’ women. But you find that underneath, they’re still the same silly, vacuous creatures. And the most disgusting spectacle in the world is the ‘teen Muslimah’, or whatever you call them.

    I’d welcome the opinion of any brother with children. Does the fact that such a daughter sprang from your own loins make your contempt for womanhood any less? I mean that seriously.

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    • Amirah

      “contempt for womanhood”? You do realize that is glaringly against your religion, right?

      The Prophet PBUH loved and adored his daughters (including Zainab who hid her non-Muslim husband from the Muslims and gave him sanctuary).

      The person the Prophet PBUH referred to as the Most Beloved Member of his Family was his granddaughter, Umamah.

      The Prophet PBUH loved his first wife Khadija so much that after she died he would become tearful when he heard her sister’s voice which sounded so much like Khadija’s.

      He respected and consulted his wives on matters of the Ummah and what to do about wars and troops and would carry through the plans they suggested.

      Although you no doubt were taught that women outnumber men in hell, try reading Sahih Al-Bukhari and you will find that women also outnumber men in heaven.

      The Prophet PBUH said to the man who asked him who deserved to be well treated by him the most, his answer was “Your mother, then Your Mother, then Your Mother, then Your Father.”

      You yourself have an X chromosome, which means that half your genes are female. Which means that you too must be a “silly, vacuous creature”.

      Have you never read the Hadith that any man who has several daughters and raises them well and treats them with love and kindness is guaranteed a place in Heaven?

      Tell me, my dear misled misogynist, how do you expect to get into heaven when you find yourself standing before God and trying to explain to him that you feel contempt for what he created with his own hands and gave of his own spirit to bring to life (nafakh feehim al-rouh)?

      I can only infer from your posting that you are either gay or are being abused by your wife. May God open your mind and close your mouth. Amen!

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  2. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    :) Hopefully my two cents won’t provoke torrents of abuse from Muslim-femenistas…

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  3. abu ameerah

    @ The Wahhabi:

    “…my two cents won’t provoke torrents of abuse…”

    LOL! You gave it full-on Wahhabi Sytle!

    “…underneath, they’re still the same silly, vacuous creatures.”

    It’s like walking around at an ISNA convention.

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  4. Amad

    I think I am missing something too… I didn’t really find it that funny. Our teen sisters probably have it the hardest living in the West…. but they are still females with the female goods and bads (like the manly goods and bads)… if they weren’t then, would you prefer marrying a man?

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  5. AnonyMouse

    Let me guess: Neither of you (MW and AA) have teenage daughters.

    “But you find that underneath, they’re still the same silly, vacuous creatures. And the most disgusting spectacle in the world is the ‘teen Muslimah’, or whatever you call them.”
    Subhan’Allah, how can you say that?! We ARE different from others – we are Muslimahs! That alone makes a world of difference.
    But being a Muslimah doesn’t make you inhuman: wherever you go around the world, young girls WILL occasionally be giggly and silly about some things. Now, I’m not a fan of constantly being like that – and I pride myself on not being a typical giggly teen girl (at least… I hope I’m not!) – but I DO know that you can’t be serious ALL the time. Remember the Hadith wherein the Prophet (saw) said that “there’s a time for this and a time for that”?
    You should know from my “Adolescent Myth” post that I frown upon constant irresponsibility and immaturity; but the truth is that it exists amongst both guys and girls in their teens, and aside from doing what we can with our own kids, there’s not much we can do about it. At the very least, try to have some compassion and mercy towards them!

    BTW, MW, I bet you’re not married… and if you view all Muslim women that way and treat them like that to their faces, then I doubt you’ll be getting one anytime soon – because every Muslim woman was once a teen Muslimah.

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  6. Faraz

    There was an article about this book in Time or Macleans magazine recently, can’t remember which one, but it was an interesting article. I like the idea of fiction about Muslims and Muslimahs who are not perfect, because it gives young people someone to relate to. While the stories of Sahabah are inspirational, they often don’t resonate with some people. A little fiction never hurts, as long as it’s clear that the accounts are just that, fiction, and should not be take as examples.

    As for the ridiculous MW comment, I’m hoping it was in jest; otherwise, it sounds like a sad reflection of pre-Islamic times where daughters were considered an embarrassment. Islam recognized the value of women and elevated their status considerably, and taught us men that they are our equals in faith, and partners in facing the challenges of life. The sort of derision expressed in that comment is just sad, even if it was intended as a joke.

    As for this comment:
    If you view all Muslim women that way and treat them like that to their faces, then I doubt you’ll be getting one anytime soon..

    I find it rather odd how people like that tend to get married rather quickly, even though they tend to make their wives miserable. At the same time, there are hundreds of decent, respectful, and God-fearing brothers out there who remain alone because there’s no one willing to help them out.

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  7. SaqibSaab

    My wife recently bought this book from a Barnes & Noble. I heard it was actually kept on one of the displays near the entrance of the store. Real neat, mA.

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  8. ruth nasrullah

    Asalaamu alaikum.

    AnonyMouse suggested I carry this book in Light of Islam when it opens – great idea, I think! It’s just the kind of book I plan to stock – one that would appeal to Muslim and non-Muslim both.

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  9. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    Someone please delete my comments, before I humiliate myself even more. And please help me out with some advice!

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  10. nuqtah

    Such pulp teen literature does nothing but contribute to the phenomenon of ‘teenybopperism’, which is hardly a step towards maturity.

    In fact, such literature further pacifies a person’s faculties to actually realize and think of what is actually happening. It really does work as a desensitizing tool in hands of whosoever wants to use it.

    Just my opinion.

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  11. Hassan

    I just hate femanazis, regardless what religion they belong to, and how much they practice that religion.

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  12. Didi

    “Women are such confusing creatures. I find that I don’t know what to think of them as- are they are mothers? Our sisters? Our wives? Since for some reason the concept of human sexuality horrifies me, I don’t know what to think.”

    Here’s a hint: Try thinking of them as…women! Did I just blow your mind? Really, it’s not that hard. There are men and there are women. Calling random women mothers, wives, sisters, etc. just complicates things. Women are just people, so treat them as such (and NOT “silly, vacuous creatures”).

    The first thing that you should learn about women is that they’re highly emotional, and that openly admitting your contempt for them is not going to score you any brownie points. Once you’ve mastered that (it’s not that hard, really) you can move on to *not* being horrified by human sexuality. Since you believe that your perfect deity invented it all anyways, how could it horrify you? I really don’t get this “sex is disgusting and filthy, especially when the consenters aren’t married” mindset that so many religious people have. Maybe it has something to do with the muslim practice of separating boys and girls at young ages and making women weard hijaabs and stuff like that? Whatever the reason is, it’s probably rooted in centuries of tradition so you can’t change it. Change yourself instead.

    To sum up, treat women as women and not as your sister/wife/mother (unless the woman in question actually *is* your sister/wife/mother), gain a degree of respect for them, and stop being so horrified by human sexuality (ie, grow up).

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  13. SrAnonymous

    My daughter came across this book title in Muslim Girl , both of which she found to be only slightly representative of her. Neither the book’s author, nor much of the magazine were hijabi.

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  14. Moiez

    Mr. Wahabi Misanthrope:
    I hate gay people.
    I love women.
    And I’de like for you to look on the bright side. Be optimistic, women are mysterious. Sounds kinda fun when you have mysterious as a description for women doesnt it haha.
    ok im done.

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  15. AnonyMouse

    MW:
    Okay, I feel sorry for you. Here’s a tip, though: females are not (usually) silly, vacuous creatures. As Didi said – we’re people! If you have sisters, go hang out with them. If you have a mom (I’m pretty sure you do), just spend some time observing her and talking to her. It’s not that hard. We aren’t *that* complicated.

    Seriously, though… the best way to go about dealing with your feel is to get married. And you don’t need to be scared of the, uh, scary stuff if you go by the Date A Spouse system: do the nikaah, but don’t move in together immediately. Hang out, become friends, get over your confusion and fear. Insha’Allah it’ll work out for you.

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  16. ...

    women who wear hijab are human, who are created weak and they too will commit sins.everyone commits sins, but believers recognise their sins immediately and turn back to Allah with repentance.
    to assume that hijabs wont fall in to any sins and they are parfect angel is ignorance..rather they are slaves of Allah swt who are striving to please their Lord.

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  17. zaynab

    Salaam Mouse

    Umm Layth suggested a really good book
    “From my sisters’ lips – Na’ima B. Robert”

    It’s cool because it’s almost written like fiction, but it’s all true.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/My-Sisters-Lips-Naima-Robert/dp/0593054415

    It goes through her life and the lives of other women around her who came to Islam and they offer narratives about key moments in their journeys (finding Islam, wearing hijab, meeting the Muslim community, getting married, etc.)

    Good book.

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  18. AnonyMouse

    Wa ‘alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    Jazaakillaahi khairan for the suggestion, Umm Layth and sis Zaynab! :)

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  19. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    Insha Allah, I’m leaving the net forever except for checking out e-mails etc.

    So, please forgive me for my numerous retardednesses, if that is a real word.

    PS. I didn’t mean that stuff about women.

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  20. Molly

    “I find it rather odd how people like that tend to get married rather quickly, even though they tend to make their wives miserable. At the same time, there are hundreds of decent, respectful, and God-fearing brothers out there who remain alone because there’s no one willing to help them out.”

    I have noticed that, too. We need to teach our daughters that they deserve the very best men, not jerks.

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  21. The Wahhabi Misanthrope

    I hope the brother did not say this, intending me.

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  22. wandering

    I picked up this book a while ago; it’s a very easy read although I haven’t really had time to finish it.

    I think this book is very important in the West and insha allah it will be motivating to those Muslim girls under peer pressure or those who hide themselves to step forward. Yeah, the girl has a crush on some guy and is very ‘teen-y’ but the point is that she is struggling to become a better Muslim and decides to wear hijab. Non Muslims will see that girls who wear hijab are not forced to do so and are ‘normal’ people (considering the fact that ‘normal teens’ will read this book, the girl in turn is a ‘normal teen’ herself – and it’s important to hit this age group); Muslimahs insha allah will relate with her spirituality and strength in doing what she believes in.

    On another slant, considering the fact that this is perhaps the first fiction book about a Muslim written in a positive light for YA (usually they have to do with terrorism, oppression, forced marriages, etc.) and about a girl who actually wears hijab (so it will not come down as being ‘extreme’), I have to say that whether I like everything about the story or not, it is a HUGE acheivement. Our voice is getting out there! Maybe in a few years we can write about a girl covering her face and actually have our readers sympathy!

    Just my 2 cents . ..

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  23. nur.ul.aain

    I’m an English Teacher at a local Islamic School. these types of books are a good read for my High School girls. If you know of any other Muslim fiction books please do list them.

    JazakAllahu Khayr
    ps: “Footsteps” by Umm Zakiyya was MashaAllah a very good book:)

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  24. hakim

    as-salaamu ‘alaikum,

    “I find it rather odd how people like that tend to get married rather quickly, even though they tend to make their wives miserable. At the same time, there are hundreds of decent, respectful, and God-fearing brothers out there who remain alone because there’s no one willing to help them out.”

    Aside from the article itself, I think this is the most poignant point made in this entire exchange.

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  25. Alexandra Lynch

    Responding to Hakim’s point above:

    Unfortunately we seek in our adult lives what we knew in our childhood. If a girl grows up seeing respect given to her mother by her father and brothers, being treated with respect and appropriate affection by her father, and being treated with affection and respect by her brothers, then she’ll believe in her deepest heart that she’s worth respect, and the exciting dramatic jerk won’t be worth her time.

    But if she’s taught that as a girl, as a future woman, she’s second place, not worth listening to, sees her father hit her mother or demean her, no matter what is said to her as a teenager, her deepest memories will be of the familiar pattern of abuse, and she’ll seek it out without realizing that’s what she’s looking for. The “good guys” don’t put out the right signals.

    Encouraging, I know. (wry grin) But having found the right one for me, I’m firm in the belief that there’s the right person for everyone out there somewhere.

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  26. Dilara Hafiz

    I haven’t read this book, but it does sound funny & informative. Frankly, any Muslim literature which portrays Muslims as ‘normal’ is welcome!! Please check out ‘The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook’ at http://www.theamth.com – written by my two teens – it’s a entertaining, educational guide to Islam from the teen perspective. Basically their pro-active response to all the post 9/11 stereotypes about Muslims – they wanted to illustrate to Muslims & non-Muslims that they don’t find any contradictions between being a Muslim & being an American. Yes – teens are faced w/ many challenges & choices, but that’s the nature of being a teenager!

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  27. muslimmatters.org » (Canadian) Muslim Writers Anthology of Short Stories

    [...] As part of the effort to change that, to expose non-Muslims to the correct understanding of Islam and help them realize that the stereotypes they have of Muslims are wrong, I’d like to see more material in the fiction department by and about Muslims living in the West, dealing with everyday issues. Fiction is a wonderful way to reach out to, connect with, and educate people in a way that non-fiction can’t accomplish. Hence, the need for more books and stories like “Does My Head Look Big In This?” [...]

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  28. Allahu Alam

    This book was indeed rubbish and the girl in it was totally confused. In reality that never happens.

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  29. Abu Bakr

    I apologize if this hadith has already been mentioned:

    “Let not a believing man hate a believing woman. If he dislikes one of her qualities, another will please him.” [Muslim]

    I find it absolutely ridiculous that purportedly religious Muslim men go around spouting such nonsense about their sisters. I’m sure that many of these same fellows love to blow hot air about how they are “upon the Sunnah.”

    I suggest they try practicing this Sunnah.

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  30. Na'ima B. Robert

    Asalaamu alaikum warahmatullah, all!

    Was just browsing and stumbled across this forum – very interesting! Just wanted to let you know that my next book is a YA novel set in East London in the Somali community – an eye-opener for many insha Allah.
    It is published by Frances Lincoln and due to launch in June in London insha Allah.

    Please take a few minutes to visit the blog and leave your comments: http://fromsomalia-withlove.blogspot.com

    JazakAllahu khairan for your support!
    Wasalaam

    Na’ima B. Robert

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  31. greekmuslimgirl

    “Oh, and if anyone knows of any other books like this – aside from Umm Zakiyya’s If I Should Speak trilogy – please do let me know! I’m keeping my eyes peeled for good Muslim fiction…)”

    Here are some definitely worth reading!

    For adults:
    Echoes Series (Echoes, Rebounding, Turbulence, Ripples, Silence)

    For young adults/adults:
    Sophia’s Journal: Time Warp 1857
    Muslim Teens
    The Size of a Mustard Seed (coming soon)

    You can find these books at http://www.islamicbookstore.com and http://www.MuslimWritersPublishing.com. They used to be at amazon.com but not sure if they are still there.

    There’s also From Somalia, With Love that just came out and can be found at the major chain stores like Chapters and I think Borders etc.
    http://www.somalialove.com

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  32. Josette

    Hi there, I came here through Blog Search. Well, I just finished reading this book and I thought it’s a really good one. I find it hilarious and am truly impressed with Amal’s courage. She’s quite sarcastic at times but sometimes, she goes too far.

    You can have a look at my review if you like! Thanks. =)

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  33. AnonyMouse

    I never did come back and finish off my review… well, for anyone still interested, I did borrow “Does My Head Look Big In This?” from the library and read it from beginning to end.

    I have to admit that I was disappointed – as I mentioned in the beginning, it’s very much part of the “chick-lit” genre. Perhaps the author’s intent was simply to have a character with whom Muslim teen girls could relate, without being preachy; but personally I thought that the novel could have encouraged stronger faith and strength of character than Amal does in the story.

    While the writing style was excellent, the plotline pretty well developed, and the characters quite believable, the major drawback of the book – for me – was that while most of the story revolves around Amal’s decision to wear hijaab, the things that happen afterward (namely, her relationship with a boy) aren’t as consistent with the theme of striving to be a better Muslimah.

    I’d give the book a 5 out of 10, in that I would recommend this book more for non-Muslims than for Muslims – it’d be a great way to introduce the struggles of Muslim teens to the wider non-Muslim audience, but as for Muslim girls themselves, I’d look for a better alternative which more strongly encourages Islamic behaviour.

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  34. yong sofea abdullah

    I just bought this book a couple of days ago. Haven’t read it yet, (im finishing my breaking dawn by stephenie meyer first).
    I’m a seventeen year old girl from malaysia.Technically, ive never faced challengeslike amal since i was born.
    Raised in a muslim family, my mom is a muslim, my dad (of course) a muslim and so does the at-least-400 people-radius around me are muslims.
    when i read a little bit about amal, Alhamdulillah i never faced that kind of situation, in my life.
    that’s all. bye assalamualaikum…

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  35. halima m,

    I enjoyed reading the book..it wasn’t perfect in some aspects.. but nevertheless I loooved it! :D

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