Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ten Things I Hate About Me

"So far, I've figured that dyeing my hair blonde, poking my eyes with contact lenses, and living a lie at school all guarantee me a share in the Australian property market. But I'm starting to realize how empty my bit of 'place' is. It's got no soul. The cosmetics are fantastic and would look great on But you can't smell life. It tastes like stale cookies and sounds like socks on carpet."

Title: Ten Things I Hate About Me

Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah

ISBN: 978-0-545-05055-5

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd

Copyright: 2006

Plot Summary: Jamilah hides her Lebanese Muslim background every day at school, changing into Australian Jamie, with blond hair and blue eyes (dye and contacts). She does this to avoid the racist teasing and bullying from the popular group in her class, Peter and Chris, who verbally attack anyone who has a hint of foreign birth. She guiltily stands by as they ridicule Ahmed, who stands up for himself, and Timothy, the odd boy in the class. Her lack of spirit and self esteem catches Peter's eye, as he dislikes girls who are too forward. At the same time, Jamilah starts talking to to Rage_Against_the_Machine about her predicament and continues to go to her madrasa, Arabic class. Everything begins to spin out of control when her band is nominated to play for the school formal, a dance where Jamilah cannot even participate.

Critical Evaluation: Jamilah is an intriguing narrator who struggles against her heritage despite thoroughly enjoying her own culture. Lacking the spirit to fight daily against the popular bullies in her class, she instead converts herself into a wallflower who does not fight back, does not stand out in any way, and just moves with the popular theme of the day. That she is so much more vibrant as herself, as Jamilah, is an important theme that takes part of the book for her to realize. While the readers compare her feeling uncomfortable and left out at school versus throwing her all into playing with her band, they can see the positive side of her that she is embarrassed of. Similarly, teens often see the positive aspects of others while feeling worthless, possibly allowing readers to realize that they, too, may be different but instead should embrace this difference and form stronger bonds with their friends.

Reader's Annotation: Jamilah is a Lebanese Muslim Australian who struggles against her father's strict rules and society's view on Muslims. While she hides her heritage at school with bleached hair, blue contacts, and the name Jamie, when this shade of her true self catches the eye of the popular Peter, everything starts coming undone.

Information About the Author: Abdel-Fattah is a Sydney-born Muslim author of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage. She is an advocate of human rights and all faiths.
When Abdel-Fattah is not writing, she works as a litigation lawyer. Read more about the author at her website.

Genre: Self-identity; High school; Racial integration

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • Have you ever held a part of yourself secret from those at school? Jamilah does. She hides her entire heritage at her Australian school. Pretending to not be a Lebanese Muslim Australian by dying her hair and wearing blue contacts, Jamilah, or Jamie, to her schoolmates, is just another Australian girl, a two-dimensional version of Jamilah lacking all the brilliance and exuberance of her true self. It only is when Jamilah embraces her heritage that she truly enjoys herself and makes good friends.
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues:
  • While Ten Things I Hate About Me depicts racism within a classroom setting, it also shows how a girl overcomes her own self-racism and proudly embraces herself. The characters who say and do racist things are accepted as thoughtless and hurtful, despite their popularity and good looks.
Why This Book?: Kathleen Mitchell Award winner in 2008

Reference Page:
Abdel-Fattah, R. (2006). Ten things I hate about me. Australia: Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd.

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