Picks and Pans Review: A Map of Home

updated 09/15/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Randa Jarrar

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In Jarrar's extraordinary debut, Nidali—a girl whose name literally means "strife; struggle"—finds herself displaced by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the early '90s. As bombs fall, she and her family flee to their beach house in Egypt, leaving relatives and savings behind and ultimately settling in the U.S. Readers follow Nidali through teen romance, academic triumph, sexual awakening and the trials of coming of age amidst seismic political change. While Nidali begins her journey "split in half" by her Egyptian-Palestinian-Greek-American heritage, in the end it is clear that she emerges stronger because of it. Depictions of her hilarious family—especially her artistic parents—are punchy and vibrant. Jarrar's lack of sentimentality, and her wry sense of humor, make Home a treasure.

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