An Arab-American woman’s riveting coming-of-age story.
Born in Washington state to an American mother and Bedouin father, Al-Maria explores the contrasting worlds that brought her parents together and eventually spurred her to choose between them, opting at a young age to live with her father’s extended family in Qatar. The author’s father, Matar, came to the United States at age 19, outfitted in a used polyester suit and possessing little more than a desire to pursue the American dream. Soon after his arrival, Matar met and married Gale; within three years, Al-Maria and her sister were born, and Matar then decided to return to Qatar to ride the wave of economic development in the region. Two years later, Matar sent his young family in Washington a video of the prosperity in Doha that, for then-5-year-old Al-Maria, “permanently cracked the world into two halves.” After venturing to Doha with her mother and sister for about a year and then returning to Washington for about six years after Gale found Matar had taken a second wife, Al-Maria’s differences with her mother then prompted her parents to send her back to Doha at age 12. It is from here that the author’s account of living with her extended family and noting class differences really shines. From an intimate vantage point, Al-Maria sees and translates challenges that the Bedouin, who lived for ages in the desert navigating by the stars, now face in the era of big cities and washers and dryers. What makes Al-Maria’s story unique is not only its rare insider’s glimpse of modern Bedouin life, but the outsider’s sensibility that magnifies her exquisite observational gifts.
Frank, funny and dauntless.