BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah [in Booklist]

Afaf Rahman, the principal of suburban Chicago’s Nurrideen School for Girls, takes a few minutes alone for prayers, until gunshots shatter her peace. Palestinian American Sahar Mustafah’s first novel opens with the terror of a school shooter and concludes with Afaf’s eventual return to her office, forever altered yet resiliently unbroken by the horrors she survives.

In between, Mustafah interweaves major milestones in Afaf’s life through four decades, as a 10-year-old in 1976 whose family implodes when her sister disappears, her transformation in 1985 from a troubled promiscuous teen to a devout Muslim, her 1993 decision to wear the hijab, the cleaving of her family, and the threat of being Muslim American after 9/11. Afaf perseveres despite her alcoholic father, damaged mother, and abusive peers until her adult faith inspires her to find inner strength and forgiving acceptance.

While Mustafah writes impressively and convincingly of her Palestinian American immigrant community, she falters when revealing the shooter’s narrative, which veers too close to predictability. Her achievements nevertheless outweigh minor missteps, making her an adept author well worth reading.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, February 1, 2020

Readers: Adult

Published: 2020


No Comment

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.