A Map of Home
The novel A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar is a coming of age story of a young girl named Nidali, a half-Palestinian, half-Egyptian girl, living in the 1970s. She grows up in Kuwait and then Egypt, fleeing wars and taking what she can carry.
While Nidali grows up, she witnesses the conflicts between her parents. Sometimes she is the target of her father’s anger, which comes from both verbal and physical abuse. Nidali herself just wants to have a normal childhood. She hides in her room to listen to rock music and she dreams about what her parents’ lives were like when they lived for a brief period in the United States.
Nidali is interested in the stories of her parents. She tries to understand her Palestinian father, and she works on drawing a map of Palestine as he directs her. When the family flees Kuwait with only the items they can carry, they move to Egypt, and Nidali spends more time with her Egyptian grandfather.
The portrayal of Nidali’s father in this novel makes him complex. At times, he is abusive and illogical, and Nidali is quick to say she hates him. But in other moments, Nidali has compassion for her father, a man who lost his home before she was born. She can see the pain of being a refugee many times over and how it has made her father into the character he is.
Throughout the narrative, Nidali deals with her mixed cultural heritage, especially in school. Because of her cross-sectional identity, she never fully fits in with her classmates. In addition, she finds a longing in herself of being attracted to girls along with boys. Nidali’s identity is demonstrative of the cultural stress put on refugees as they are displaced, sometimes multiple times, and trying to feel a connection to the land they live on.