Does My Head Look Big in This?

By: 

Randa Abdel-Fattah

Number of Pages: 

368

Minimum grade level: 

8th

Being an Australian-Muslim-Palestinian isn’t easy for sixteen-year-old Amal, especially since she’s decided to wear the hijab head scarf full-time. Amal feels closer to God when she wears the hijab. When winter break is over she’s going to walk into homeroom at that snobby prep school of hers proudly wearing the head scarf.

Amal has made a list of people who will support her in her choice to cover up: her mom and dad, her good friends Leila, Yasmeen, Simone and Eileen, her favorite teacher Mr. Pearse, nuns, monks and other religious people, and nudists, because if they believe in the right to take it all off then surely they believe in the right to keep it all on, right?

She made another list of people who will not be okay: most of the girls at her posh prep school, the check-out people at the grocery store, Uncle Joe and Aunt Mandy, the principal at her school, her cranky next door neighbor Mrs. Vaselli, people who will interview her when she applies for a job, and Adam Keane, the cutest boy in her class.

Amal is scared just thinking about how people will react, even after her best friends help her shop for new outfits. Wake up and smell the Frappuccino! What is Amal doing being all holy and stuff and wearing a head scarf on the bus, in the mall, and in school everyday? She’s still a teenager, worried about fashion and friends and when she looks into the mirror she wonders, does this made my head look big? 

Discussion questions

Spoiler alert! Some of the questions contain key elements of the plot. Do not read if you don't want to know what happens!

  1. Amal makes an important change in her life: she decides to wear the hijab headscarf full-time and finds a place to pray in the proper way while at school. What changes, if any, have you ever tried to make in yourself as you began a new school year or return from a vacation break? How did it go?
  2. The school principal claims that, by wearing a hijab, Amal is not following the rules for uniform dress at her school. Amal points out that her headscarf is different than wearing an eyebrow ring or growing a Mohawk or dyeing her uniform pink. Is this a valid argument? If there’s a “no hats” rule at school, should a student be allowed to wear a hijab? If students are allowed to wear a hijab and other religious items, should teachers also be allowed to wear objects that express their faith?
  3. Amal’s parents are supportive but also very surprised when she makes her decision. Do you think their worries are realistic? Do you think Amal has considered all sides of her decision?
  4. Almost daily, classmate Tia taunts Amal with stories of Muslim terrorists. How does Amal handle it? Does this type of harassment ever happen at your school? What’s the best way to deal with someone like Tia?
  5. First Amal attended Catholic school, then five years at an Islamic school, and now she studies at a private prep school. How have these varied school experiences shaped her?
  6. Next door neighbor Mrs. Vaselli has an unfriendly stare. She says Amal throws cigarette butts on her lawn and visits just for the free food. Do you think Mrs. Vaselli really believe this? How does their relationship grow and change?
  7. Amal is surrounded by many other families and friends who share a immigrant history including Uncle Joe and Aunt Mandy, Mrs. Vaselli, Leila’s mother, and Eileen Tanaka. How is this important for Amal?
  8. Amal comments that a piece of cloth turns “us” into “them.” Recalling stories she’s heard about job interviews ending abruptly once the panel see the candidate is wearing a hijab, Amal worries about finding work after college. Would it be best for her to simply not wear a headscarf to an interview? Why is it so common for people to be judged by what they wear or how they look?
  9. What do you think Amal means when she says, “Putting on the hijab isn’t the end of the journey. It’s just the beginning of it.”
  10. Amal’s story tells us a lot about the personal, religious and cultural reasons for wearing a hijab. How has reading this book changed how you feel about women who wear hijab at your school or in your community?
  11. Do you change - or wish you could change - your appearance to express your faith, culture, or something else important to you?

If you liked this book, try

  • Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah
  • Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim
  • The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook by Dilara Hafiz
  • The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
  • Leaving Fishers by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
  • Rose by Any Other Name by Maureen McCarthy

Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.