Where the Streets Had a Name

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah Intermediate, Middle School Scholastic 314 pp. 11/10 978-0-545-17292-9 $17.99
RedReviewStarIn Israeli-occupied Bethlehem, fear and bloodshed are as much a part of life as scolding parents and school pranks. Ever since their house and land were destroyed, Hayaat's Muslim family has lived in a small apartment: parents, sisters, brothers, and (flatulent) Sitti Zeynab, Hayaat's beloved grandmother. Despite interruptions by unpredictable curfews, daily life carries on, including big plans for Hayaat's sister's wedding. Hayaat's Christian best friend, Samy, is a born troublemaker and reliable source of entertainment; he also defends Hayaat from cruel remarks about the scars across her face, inflicted on a terrible day that Hayaat tries hard to forget. The sights, sounds, and smells of Bethlehem come to life as the two race each other through the streets. When Sitti Zeynab falls ill, Hayaat recruits Samy on a mission to cross the wall illegally and bring back a jar of earth from her homeland. The long journey through numerous checkpoints is alternatingly tedious and frightening, vividly depicting the trials of occupation and the extreme fortitude of the people living under it. The joyful occasion of Jihan's wedding at novel's end is a clear sign of hope in the midst of hardship. Abdel-Fattah's (Does My Head Look Big in This?, rev. 7/07) message isn't subtle but loud and heartfelt as delivered by thirteen-year-old Hayaat: "In the end we are all of us only human beings who laugh the same." Who can fight that? LAUREN ADAMS
Gr 5-8 Physically and emotionally scarred, Hayaat lives behind the Israeli-built Separation Wall in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. When her beloved grandmother falls ill, the 13-year-old decides to make her way to Jerusalem to fill an empty hummus jar with soil from the land of her grandmother's ancestral home. She is certain that this will mend her heart. Unfortunately, although Jerusalem is merely minutes away, curfews, checkpoints, and an identity card that doesn't allow her to cross the border mean that Hayaat and her soccer-loving, troublemaker friend Samy face a perilous journey. This novel is an important addition to a very small body of existing books that tell the Palestinian story for young people, and an intensely realistic setting brings that story to life. It is full of humor, adventure, and family love, but doesn't try to hide the heartbreaking and often bitter reality of life under Occupation. Abdel-Fattah manages to walk the line of truth-telling and sensitivity. She has avoided vilifying Israelis and, in fact, Hayaat and Samy could not have completed their journey without the help of a Jewish Israeli couple sympathetic to their cause. A cast of quirky characters adds both humor and realism to the story, making the devastating circumstances more palatable to young readers and keeping the story light in spite of a heavy topic and some dark realizations as the plot moves forward.-"Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA" Copyright 2010 Media Source Inc.
Hayaat's Muslim family lives in a small apartment in Israeli-occupied Bethlehem. When her grandmother, Sitti Zeynab, falls ill, Hayaat embarks on a mission to bring back a jar of earth from her homeland. The long journey to Jerusalem through numerous checkpoints is vividly depicted, along with the trials of occupation and the extreme fortitude of the people living under it.

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