She spends a lot of the novel trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs in the grand scheme, not just with her family, but with her international self, and who she want to be as opposed to who she is expected to be. Her family is full of failed artists, her dad is a failed poet and her mom is a failed concert pianist, and their main identity is rooted in their failure as artists.
Nidali comes out of that, being a sort of mixed child in a somewhat homogenous culture. From the very beginning, she has this feeling of being out of place, or being strange, or being a mix of things.
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Throughout the novel, she explores this mix, and tries to figure out a way for herself to be whole in the face of all this mixing. Was that a deliberate choice, or is it just the tone you prefer to strike? I really wanted the novel to be funny.
Randa Jarrar on A Map of Home
I like to take serious things and make fun of them and satirize them and embellish them and inject humor into them. That is one of the only ways to deal with serious stuff. I think this is common in a lot of submerged populations, like Jewish authors, African American authors, Asian American authors.
Not all of them do it, but there tends to be a strain of humor in all the depression. How have American perceptions of Arabs changed since the Gulf War, if at all? Overnight, people were interested in Arab and Arab Americans, but unfortunately there was confusion between Arab Americans and Muslims and Muslim Americans.
Arabs have been immigrating to the country since the early 19th century. I think publishers were more willing to take on Arab American authors. There was a readership for it. Do readers or publishers expect Arab Americans to tell a particular type of story, and how have you experienced that? Is it frustrating?
I think there is a preoccupation with that kind of story. There is also I think an expectation that an Arab American writer is going to tell sort of whimsical, magical stories, that Arabian Nights, genie-in-a-bottle sort of stereotype that an Arab American is an adept storyteller. That is what people expect, fantastical stories about ridiculous stuff, just bullshit.
Readers expect these books to be testaments of on-the-edge fundamentalists, not quite someone who is a fundamentalist, but how they might become one, how they might be understood. I think those are the preferred stories that are expected. Given those expectations, how have readers and reviewers reacted to your book? Are they surprised to see familiar-seeming characters?
Cultural Cartography: Randa Jarrar’s A Map of Home | melinda
Yeah, when the book first came out, some reviewers said that it was basically about adolescence. We have similarities, we are all human. There are not enough stories about Arabs and Arab Americans and Muslims and Muslim Americans and tons of other minorities are not getting their say. I made sure it was accessible to pretty much anyone over the age of 13 or Be the first to discover new talent! Each week, our editors select the one author and one book they believe to be most worthy of your attention and highlight them in our Pro Connect email alert.
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