Monday, November 1, 2010

Where the Streets Had a Name by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Where the Streets Had a Name
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Publisher: Scholastic
Released: November 1, 2010
Age Group: 9 - 12
Pages: 320
Source: 1 ARC Tours
Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they're on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat's best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair's side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.

But while their journey may only be a few kilometers long, it could take a lifetime to complete. . .
As a child, and even as a young adult, I knew of there being conflicts in the Middle East; however, I had no idea what was really going on. It wasn't until I went to college and became a Religious Studies major that I really understood the history of the Middle East, its religions, and the strife that's resulted. Where the Streets Had a Name is a book I wish had been around when I was a kid. It is an excellent view into the life of a young girl in Palestine trying to get into forbidden Jerusalem.

Disfigured by the crossfire of her war-torn home, Hayaat is perhaps more emotionally scarred than physically by the death of her best friend. But such is the life in Palestine. Her family can only hope that she will marry despite her bad fortune because a good marriage is Hayaat's best chance at a good life. While a future such as this may seem little more than grim, Hayaat is no worse for the wear. She is just another thirteen-year-old girl who likes to skip school to play with her best friend Samy and argue with her older sister.

Hayaat also spends a lot of time listening to her grandmother's stories of Jerusalem before her family was forced out of their homes and moved to Bethlehem. When her grandmother falls ill, Hayaat decides she must travel to Jerusalem and bring back the soil of her grandmother's homeland to save her life. Armed with nothing more than an empty hummus jar, Hayaat and Samy make their way toward Jerusalem.

I often believe the world could be a better place simply if everyone would read. And I don't just mean having the ability to read, although that is obviously a part of it, but if everyone read more. Where the Streets Had a Name is the perfect example of this. With a setting like Palestine, one would think it would be difficult to create a hopeful story, but Randa Abdel-Fattah tells a courageous one with more heart than some people I know. It is a story everyone should read at least once and probably more than twice.

I wish I would have remembered to go back and copy down a few quotes to share before I had to send my copy along its way. There was one passage in particular when Sitti Zeynab is telling Hayaat a story and she says something about smiling being the same in every language. It is that kind of truth that makes this novel one of the most inspiring I've read this year.


  1. I absolutely adored this book - and I'm glad you did, too! It's just such an important story that needs to be told.

  2. amazing review, wow!
    I believe if everyone read the world could be a better place too.
    I've never seen this book but I will definitely give it a try :)


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