19 January 2011

A Dull Knife

Last night I finished the book, A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar. I know, in my rational brain, that my emotional reaction to the book was stronger than it would have been because I was reading it at midnight after only sleeping 5 hours the night before. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. Especially anyone who has lived in a Muslim country, and wants a deeper insight into the lives of Muslim (religious or "heritage") women.

I first heard about this book in October, while reading one of my favorite blogs, Muslimah Media Watch. They had good things to say about it, so I put it on my Amazon Wishlist so I would remember to buy it when I got home. Serendipitously, however, my mother was generous, and sent it to me for Christmas (along with Pepto Bismol! What else could a former volunteer want?!). And during this long break I have from work, I definitely needed it.

I started reading A Map of Home out of nothing more than sheer desperation, or sheer boredom perhaps, and quickly realized that this was the best book I had read in a long time. It has been months since I was able to completely loose myself in a story, since I had found a story that affected me physically. The story pulled me in for two main reasons. First of all, Jarrar's choice of language was verging on sublime. Descriptive, varied, yet accessible and appropriate for the age of the main character (8 to 18) and the time (1990s). Secondly, I found in the story a girl with whom I could relate, despite the fact that she grew up in Kuwait, lived in Egypt, and then moved to Texas - none of them places I had ever lived or ever dream of living.

This book also did something completely unexpected: it woke me up. Not literally, but intellectually. I realized that my mind has been feeling muddy for quite sometime. Too many hours spent wasted on Facebook or watching mindless movies. Living in Morocco is hard like that, and I've spent too long trying to escape it, so that I wouldn't dwell on the negative. Plus there is a deplorable lack of intellectual company in my life, even in Rabat because I don't speak French. I didn't realize how sluggish I was feeling intellectually until yesterday. I'm smart. I like being smart, I like it when my mind is sharp, and when my vocabulary is witty. Reading this book made me realize I have to work to get back to that, especially if I want to go to grad school in the fall.

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