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West of the Jordan: A Novel (Bluestreak) Paperback – June 15, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Bluestreak
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (June 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807083593
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807083598
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,151 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four young women from Palestine and Jordan contend with issues of identity in this debut novel from Arab-American author Halaby. Hala, who has just finished high school in Arizona and intends to go to university, returns to Jordan to spend time with her dying grandmother. She finds herself at odds with her conservative older sister and her father, a traditional man much older than her independent mother, who died two years earlier. As she spends time in the country of her childhood, she forges a relationship with her older cousin, Sharif, and faces tough choices about her future. Hala's cousin Mawal has remained in the West Bank village of Nawara and leads a passive existence, living with her mother and listening to the many stories of villagers and relatives who have left for Jordan or the United States. In Los Angeles, two more cousins, Soraya and Khadija, attempt to integrate themselves into American life while facing prejudice and coping with their parents' traditional expectations; Soraya rebels with her sexuality, while Khadija faces a drunken and abusive father. The themes of choice and independence are very much at the forefront of the story, and much of the news revolves around loss: of homeland, of family, of traditions. Halaby's choice to alternate the narratives of the four young women offers real characterizations to latch onto, and her prose, often lyrical-particularly when the speakers relate other peoples' stories-deepens the complications of history and heritage. Contemplative and lush, this coming-of-age tale resonates with the challenges of cross-cultural life.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-This title conveys familiar themes-culture clash and the individual identity crisis that it provokes, plus coming-of-age-but its Muslim protagonists are somewhat rare in Western contemporary literature. In alternating chapters, four female cousins-Mawal, in the West Bank village of Nawara; Hala, in Arizona; and Khadija and Soraya, in California-tell their stories. Their experiences range from the orthodoxy that imbues Mawal's life to the freedoms that her American relatives find both exhilarating and frightening. The author focuses on the difficulties facing Arab women wherever they live, but especially when trying to navigate the crosscurrents of parental and traditional mores while seeking acceptance and success in a foreign country. The extremes of the latter difficulties are represented by Soraya, who is the most Americanized, and by shy Khadija, who endures an angry father's abuse. Hala's story bridges the two cultures; during a visit to Jordan to see her dying grandmother, she develops strong feelings for a male cousin, forcing her to seriously consider her future. With the possible exception of Hala, Halaby provides neither answers nor tidy endings to her characters' dilemmas, thus showing that growing up is messy and difficult whatever the ethnicity or religion, but perhaps especially so for the first generation in a new land.
Dori DeSpain, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Marvin Jawahery on August 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book in many of it's stages; it combines the writers maturity and artistic complexity along with the ability to present complex characters on a simple and attractive plate of interwoven stories. If you really wanna know what it means to be a palestinian girl living under constant deprivation of stable mental conditions .. read this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kem Laurin Kramer on September 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is real and touching on so many levels. I can see and touch the characters and feel their pain with each turn of the pages. I must say that I was initially deceived by the simplistic language in rendering the story - only to realize that the writer had no choice but to simplify the complex in a way that was palatable for those of us not from the Arab-Muslim world. And while I do not come from the East, many of the scenes mirror my own cultural experience and held a fascination in itself. It also reassures me that in the scope of things, we are more similar than different. I was also amazed by the speed of reading and saddened when I realized that the pages were all almost read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lina Fairchild on November 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
This insightful first novel by Jordanian-American author Laila Halaby shows that the influences that shape the lives of many Arab women are the same ones that affect their American sisters: upbringing, religion, the urban-rural divide and economic and educa-tional circumstance. Halaby writes about four young Arab women, cousins with deep family roots in Palestine. One still lives in the occupied West Bank, one is torn between her family in Jordan and her studies in Arizona, two live with their immediate families in unfamiliar California. The novel speaks through different voices in successive chap-ters, and the chapters overlap in the narrators' shared memories of their collective ex-tended family: grandparents and a spectrum of aunts and uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters. Halaby interweaves the women's stories, allowing us to see each cousin from multiple points of view. Her dialogue is comfortably authentic, whether traditional or transplanted. The four women relive the oft-repeated legends of their origins in Pales-tine: tales of births, weddings and funerals captured in photo albums and replayed on videotapes. Individual lives become fragments in a rich and intricate mosaic as the lar-ger family history unfolds.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book in many of it's stages; it combines the writers maturity and artistic complexity along with the ability to present complex characters on a simple and attractive plate of interwoven stories. If you really wanna know what it means to be a palestinian girl living under constant deprivation of stable mental conditions .. read this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Megzi on April 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Being of Arab descent myself (my grandmother was Lebanese) I personally found this book interesting because I'd like to learn more about my heritage. At times it could get a little slow, especially when Mawal's narratives came in, but overall it was different and original. One odd thing I noticed about the characters was that they did not consider themselves 'white'. This I found a little odd, because the U.S. Census does consider Arabs Caucasian, so I wasn't sure if I was unaware of something or if they were (if they were right, I guess I'm multiracial then!). It's an interesting book and if you're into ethnic things and enjoy learning about other people's cultures then this book is for you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 5, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This terrific book depicts the everyday life of young Arab girls in the U.S. and the Middle East. The story alternates between four cousins whose problems are both familiar and particular to their culture. The writing is lush and exotic. I recommend this book to anyone, but particularly to women who want to know what life is like for Arab girls caught between two worlds -- and who want to read a good story!
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