'They Don't Know Us, What We Are': An Analysis of Two Young Adult Texts with Arab-Western Protagonists Academic Article uri icon


  • Since 9/11, when Arabs in the West found themselves under suspicion, the way Arabs could be portrayed in Young Adult fiction has become complicated. This paper will look at two examples of this fiction to explore the difficult position characters in these texts now find themselves in. The short story 'Alone and All Together' (Geha 2002) is written by an Arab-American author. In it, Labibeh and her sister must negotiate their relationship with America both by maintaining their Arab identification in the days after 9/11 whilst at the same time proving that they are real and loyal Americans. Similarly, in the Young Adult novel Does My Head Look Big in This (Abdel-Fattah 2005) authored by a self-proclaimed 'Australian-born-Muslim-Palestinian- Egyptian-choc-o-holic' writer, a young Muslim girl must contend with racism and misunderstanding at her private school in Melbourne when she decides to wear the hijab. As in the first text, she too must prove her status as a 'normal' Western girl while at the same time proudly maintaining her commitment to Islam. This delicate balance does not come easily for any of these characters, nor is it without sacrifice as the protagonists negotiate their cultural identities in acceptable ways.

publication date

  • January 1, 2006