Ten Things I Hate About Me

Abdel-Fattah, Randa. Ten Things I Hate About Me (2009). 297 Pages. $8.99

Those of you brought here by google; what are you looking for? If you have questions, post them in the comments and I will try to answer them for you.

This book was a couple firsts; it’s the first book I’ve read by an Australian author, and it’s the first book I’ve read about a Muslim teenager. That made it a bit strange (since it was set in Australia) but still interesting.

Jamilah Towfeek is a Muslim-Lebanese-Australian high schooler who just wants to blend in and fly under the radar. She’s straightens her bleached hair, wears blue contacts, and goes by “Jamie” when at school. She refuses to talk about her family or culture to anyone. She doesn’t want to deal with the racism; and she wants to be popular,but only “Anglos” can be popular.

Outside school, however, Jamilah loves her heritage. She goes to madrasa (Arabic culture/language school), she plays darabuka in a traditional band, she has a close-knit family, and she loves Lebanese food. She’s not ashamed to be Muslim or Lebanese– unless she’s at school.

Books like this have an inevitable ending; the deceit fails somewhere, and the selves must merge. Jamie does eventually vanish in favor of Jamilah, though the path she takes to get there is not an easy one to follow. With the support of her family, and some friends she doesn’t know she has, Jamilah learns to embrace herself, and her heritage, no matter where she is.

There is a lot of discussion about immigrant families– Jamilah’s father says at one point, I came here, and I integrated for you. You should not still be fighting it, you should be able to be proud of being Muslim-Lebanese-Australian. There is also a little about the hijab— Jamilah’s sister wears it, while Jamilah doesn’t– and some discussion about the role of women and the interpretation of the Koran. There is still more about ramadan* and madrasa, and other aspects of Jamilah’s culture.

One of the things which most struck me was the fact that Jamilah is so aware of being Muslim in a post-9/11 world**. She is very aware that her heritage makes it nearly impossible for her to be an airline pilot, and it ensures that she is always “randomly screened” when traveling through airports. She worries about being a stereotype, about being seen for the extremists of her religion, rather than for herself.

In Conclusion:

I was not expecting a book set in Australia, and I was a little confused by some of the slang (Wog for example, is not a word I know) but I did really enjoy it. Jamilah manages to be a character you want to root for as she tries to re-define herself. Her struggle is both unique and average; many teens have to find their identities, it is not exclusive to immigrant teens, though it can be harder.  This book was surprising, and interesting, and scores a 5/5.

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* Ramadan is mentioned, but never discussed in depth. I suppose because it is the most well-known of Islam’s holidays.

** I know that an awful lot of Americans are racist bastards, who assume that a hijab, a beard, or a Sikh’s turban mean “terrorist,” but I did not think it was such an issue in places like Australia.

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7 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult Fiction

7 responses to “Ten Things I Hate About Me

  1. Wow, sounds like a cool book. I grew up in Dearborn, MI, which had a very large Lebanese population, and I wish we’d had something like this!

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  2. fatima

    this is a very lovley authors book and i read 2 other books by her

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  3. why chosse a bokk about a maslim girl do you have any connection your book lives to sepraete lives as a lie are you trying to say if your embrassed always change please answer my question because this is just qunfussion i am only 11 years old and i think you need to know this for mine and for yours by:……… bye =)

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    • srry i mean mine and your sake bye

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    • Lillian, I’m not exactly sure what your questions are, but…

      Why did I choose a book about a Muslim girl? Because it’s always good to learn about other cultures, and because it’s always interesting to read books about things you aren’t familiar with. It helps expand your horizons and give you a better view and understanding of the world.

      Is who trying to say if you’re embarrassed change? I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. But it’s important to be true to yourself, because when you lie about yourself, or who you are, or what you like, then you’ll get caught, or you’ll be unhappy. If you lie to your friends about who you are, and that is who they like, then are they really your friends? If they don’t like you for you, and they like you because of who you’re pretending to be, then they aren’t really your friends.

      I am 25 years old, and the thing that I have learned– even though it took me a long time to learn it– is that I’m happiest when I’m not lying to anyone about me. I’m a total dork, and I an be pretty silly. I sometimes embarrass my little sisters– who are 11 and 9– by being silly in public, but things are more fun that way.

      These sound like book report questions. If they are, then the best thing I can say is read the book, because it is a good book. If your teacher assigned it to you, it’s probably because they thought you could learn something from Jamilah. Probably something about being true to yourself.

      I hope you understand what I’m talking about even though you’re young.

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  4. Sparkleparty ;)

    I remember borrowing this book from you and I really liked it as well.

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