Genre: Multicultural interest
A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter–radicalized by the online alt-right–attacks the school.
As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.
The Beauty of Your Face is a profound and poignant exploration of one woman’s life in a nation at odds with its ideals, an emotionally rich novel that encourages us to reflect on our shared humanity. If others take the time to really see us, to look into our face, they will find something indelibly familiar, something achingly beautiful gazing back.
My verdict: Firstly thank you to Netgalley for letting me read this prior to its release. I feel very privileged to read this semi autobiographical book about a young Palestine American girl who is grabbling between keeping up with her cultural expectations and traditions as well as fitting in with the current American culture of the 1970’s. Ultimately this book is about one young woman and her families transition to an American Lifestyle. As well as this we see her having to deal with her sisters disappearance, her mothers depression, her father’s infidelity and alcoholism all the while she’s trying to figure out who she is, feeling ignored which leads her to dabble in promiscuity. Ultimately all these things lead her to finding religion. During the flashbacks we see Afaf looking back at every moment and she reconsiders every choice she’s made when being held hostage.
Not only does this look back at Afaf’s and her family’s rocky transition with American culture but it looks at the racial tensions, prejudice and discrimination faced by them caused by ‘true’ Americans who are disgruntled at the influx of different cultures coming to America in search of the American dream.
Overall the novel was beautifully written almost lyrical showing readers both sides of the coin. An emotional rollercoaster about a young Muslim woman wanting to find her true self and to honour her culture instead of ignoring it.
Embracing herself is the best thing she could do. Not only does it look at the impact of the next generation who have immigrant parents but also shows the struggles of the adults adapting and that in particular is shown through her mother’s home sickness and that added to her daughter disappearing led to her mental health break down and the author writes it with such brutal honesty that it shatters any illusion that mental health shouldn’t be discussed in the Asian communities.