Book Review: Sophia Al-Maria’s “The Girl Who Fell To Earth”

The Girl who Fell to Earth is the coming-of-age story of a self-described “Qatarican” (Qatari/American) which takes the reader on a zig-zagging journey from a farm in Washington State to a Bedouin town in Qatar, and on to a houseboat on the Nile and the hustle and bustle of Cairo. The result is something very far from the usual “tone and content [of] the popular genre-memoirs of the victimized-Muslim-woman.”

This book is rightly described as a memoir, but because it begins before the ambivalently, doubly named Sophia/Safya is born some reviews have been calling it a family saga, describing the unlikely meeting of her parents: Gale, from working-class Tacoma and Matar, from the Bedouin Al-Dafira tribe. That meeting is described in the first few humorously written fairytale-like chapters, but later the focus is exclusively, almost solipsistically, on the narrator and her reactions to the world/s around her.

There is no deep digging into the psyches of other characters (perhaps understandably) nor prolonged political musing here. This is very much a personal story, a journey of self-discovery, with Sophia setting out, as the publisher’s blurb tells us, “to find her freedom, even in the most unlikely of places.” [Read more...]