Young Adult Lit/Crit

February 8, 2008

Tonight’s Lit Circle

Filed under: DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? — kariredmond @ 4:26 am

Tonight three of us (Mandy, Allison, and myself) met to discuss the novel Does My Head Look Big In This? I think that we were very successful in bringing up some relevent issues in the novel and how it would relate to adolescent students. 

For example, Mandy brought up the important point that a lot of the validation that Amal, the main character, gets is coming from the male antagonist Adam.  I hadn’t really considered that before the literature circle, and it was definately interesting how three people can have very different perspectives on the same novel. 

Allison mentioned the extraordinary use of stereotypes by the author.  Almost every character in the novel are turned into an example of common stereotypes.  I had noticed some of the stereotypes in the story, but focusing on that in our lit circle really helped bring more details to light.

Allison also brought up the scene in the novel where Amal is matching her headband with her scarf, and we all agreed that we had not considered the hijab as a fashion accessory of sorts.  I was interested mostly in how the hijab is viewed so differently as a symbol of the religion by different people in the novel.  Amal’s parents and muslim family members saw the hijab as a “coming of age” and viewed it as enhancing her beauty.  At school and on the bus, however, people were taken aback and saw it as a sign of a religious zealot and viewed her as someone to avoid. 

 Basically the literature circle was a great method of analysing the important points of the novel with the use of other’s perspectives as well as my own.  I appreciated the questions brought to the table by my “circle-mates” and I definately enjoyed their feedback on my questions.  We discussed how the novel could be useful in the classroom setting and also shared texts that could be used in conjunction with this novel. 

For example: The American Teenage Muslim Handbook by Dilara Hafiz

and   “Alone and All Together” by Joseph Geha from a collection of short stories that explores the issues of contemporary urban youth.

Hope this helps a little…. we covered an array of topics in our lit circle, and I am sure my “circle-mates” will have more to add if I haven’t stolen all of our thunder!




  1. Kari: Thanks for nicely summarizing many of the things out lit circle discussed. I was very intrigued by the relationship Amal developed with Mrs. V., but only through discussing it with you and Alison was I able to reach a conclusion on the importance of this element in the story. You made a great point when you said that Amal wants everyone to be accepting and not judge her, but she immediately judges her elderly neighbor before ever really getting to know her. The irony of the situation became very apparent after you shared this with our group.

    I also agree with you both that at times the story was a little slow. There were many important issues raised in the text (oppression, stereotypes, gender roles, to name a few) that could have been more fully developed, instead of the drawn out saga about Amal and Adam, the boy she liked. There were also some unrealistic conclusions to many of the conflicts presented in the story, such as Leila’s relationship with her mother. However, I still think this book has potential and that teens could benefit from reading it. I would definitely recommend this to adolescents. It is an interesting book to read, especially because readers learn so much about Muslim culure.

    Also, yesterday was my first day starting my 50 hours of observation in a Syracuse city school. In my first class there was a girl with a beautiful hijab. I told her how pretty it was and I am glad that after reading this book, my immediate reaction to her was not thinking she is a poor oppressed young girl. Perhaps she is, but perhaps she wear the hijab as a symbol of her faith!

    – Mandy

    Comment by mandygrl101 — February 9, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

  2. Mandy and Kari,
    Thanks for the comments about our lit circle.
    I wanted to continue to talk about the pace of the novel. I would be curious to find out if a young adults think this novel is slow at points. Is it possible that the three of us found it slow at points because we are a little old for some of the subject matter? Some of the most interesting parts of this novel were the responses to the hijab and the cultural lives of Amal, her friends and her family (such as her aunt and uncle).The most boring parts, for me, were the eating disorder issues and the teenage drama over boys. The girly crush plot was a bit drawn out. Perhaps a young adult would not be bored by these aspects, though.

    Mandy, what good timing for you to meet a young girl who wears a hijab! What did she say when you complimented her?

    Comment by allison — February 11, 2008 @ 9:17 am

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