Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir

Posted by nliakos on January 6, 2015

by Sophia Al-Maria (Harper Perennial 2012; ISBN 987-0-06-199975-8)

Sophia’s father is a Bedouin born in Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter into a nomadic family and tribe, a citizen of Qatar who traveled to Seattle for a university education and ended up with a wife and two daughters. Her mother is a Washington State farm girl who converted to Islam and relocated with her daughters to Qatar but was unable to tolerate her husband’s second wife and children. Sophia, the girl who fell to earth, is, according to the blurb in the back cover, an artist, a fil-maker, and a writer who now lives in Qatar, where she researches “Gulf futurism”, whatever that is.

Her memoir begins with her father’s childhood and ends when she is a student at the American University in Cairo, working for an anthropologist who is studying a group of Bedouin living in the Sinai Peninsula. In between, she narrates the story of her childhood, which was spent partly in Washington State with her mother and grandmother (and father, until he returned to the Gulf) and partly in Qatar and Saudi Arabia with her father’s family, where her mother sent the pre-teen Sophia when she couldn’t control her behavior and where Sophia went as a teenager, hoping to find freedom from her mother’s demands. Each time she passes from one culture to the other, she must adapt to the changing circumstances and language. She describes these adaptations in detail. She is sometimes brutally honest, recalling her most awkward moments and rebellious, even foolhardy, actions.

For someone who enjoys reading about cross-cultural issues (that would be me), this little book is really great.

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