A Map of Home, by Randa Jarrar, is the best book I've read in ages about being a rebellious teenager. Best book about it forever, maybe. And I've read a lot of books featuring teen angst, teen love, growing of age, the experience of being an immigrant, and dealing with dysfunctional families.
If you read and enjoyed Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza Guene, or The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls, or Stealing Buddha's Dinner, by Bich Minh Nguyen (hey, she lived in Ann Arbor for a while just like Jarrar!) then I think you'll like A Map of Home. Jarrar's novel reminded me of the best of all of these books in its honesty and in the heroine's ability to find humor and insight in the most unlikely places.
It's funny, it's sweet, it's rude, it's geographically and historically interesting, and it's incredibly easy and just enjoyable to read. A Map of Home is the story of Nidali, who was born in Boston (to a pair of the most loud, stubborn, and memorable parents I think I've ever seen portrayed), who grew up in Kuwait before the first Gulf War, and who matured in Egypt and finally, finished high school in Texas. Check out Nidali's first reactions to Texas:
I looked out of the car's window, mesmerized by the highway. Cars stayed in their lanes. They stopped at the traffic lights: here, these red and yellow and green circles were not mere suggestions or street decorations. The roads were clean. The graffiti on the inside of tunnels was pretty, like a well-tended flower. the air didn't smell of trash. A woman was crossing the street and no one appeared to offer her his luscious love bone. In the distance I saw lights from the city; they hovered over us like the personal illuminations of a hundred tiny angels (p. 215).
I don't think the title A Map of Home was catchy enough, somehow (there seem to be a lot of rather highbrow books out there favor that the use of a map as a literary device, don't you think?), though I did enjoy how Jarrar used maps in the book. Not literally (although that's not a bad idea, maybe she could draw one herself for the paperback cover?), but literarily.
My only regret is that I didn't read this book a few months ago, so I could have gone to her book signing in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. But since Jarrar lives here, I hope she does another local one sometime. And I hope she is working on another novel right now. I'd love to read her take on marriage and motherhood.