Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
When Sophia Al-Maria’s father was a boy his family still lived a traditional Bedouin lifestyle, traveling around the deserts of Qatar and Saudi Arabia and sleeping in tents under skies dark enough to be filled with stars. After being forced by boundary-loving authorities to settle in a gender-segregated family compound her father’s wanderlust remained, which is how he ended up in Seattle unable to speak English but still managing to meet and marry an American girl, giving Al-Maria the dual or maybe triple or even quadruple cultural heritage that makes this memoir so mind expandingly and eye openingly interesting.
Al-Maria spent part of her childhood in her grandmother’s small, isolated house in rural Washington state, where the protective paranoia of her mother made Al-Maria feel more trapped than when she stayed in her father’s crowded multi-generational and now stationery home in Qatar. Even though while in Qatar there were substantial cultural and religious restrictions on her ability to move around freely and meet with whomever she wanted, being part of a larger family crowd felt liberating.
While she lived in Qatar Al-Maria spent her time getting to know her substantial Bedouin family, attending an international school mainly for foreigners, brawling with her male cousins in the wrong side of their gender divided home because she couldn’t stand that being older meant she was no longer able to play Mortal Kombat with them (well, this happened just once), assisting her uncle’s carefully choreographed subterfuge as he sneak-courted a non-Bedouin girl unacceptable to their family (which helped her figure out how to spend forbidden time with her boyfriend when she fell in love), and attending rowdy, sexually charged all female parties that seemed to be part of the insular culture of women. Al-Maria also got to experience a little of her traditional Bedouin heritage when the whole family would take off to camp in the desert.
Several of Al-Maria’s perspectives and insights on hot topics like burka wearing are not what I’ve encountered anywhere else, and she experienced class divides I knew nothing about. The book presents a fascinating almost disorienting set of interrelated worlds and Al-Maria’s vivid energetic writing sweeps the story along, allowing me the deep pleasure of being able to visualize that wide, star-rich desert sky but leaving me hanging a little at the end wondering what she did next. I’m hoping for a follow up book.
Many thanks to Zanna on GoodReads for bringing the book to my attention. Her review: Link