Where the Streets Had a Name

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Critically acclaimed author Randa Abdel-Fattah's middle-grade debut about the journey -- and risks -- a Palestinian girl will take to save her family.

Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they're on the wrong side of check points, curfews,...

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Critically acclaimed author Randa Abdel-Fattah's middle-grade debut about the journey -- and risks -- a Palestinian girl will take to save her family.

Thirteen year old Hayaat is on a mission. She believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her beloved Sitti Zeynab's life. The only problem is that Hayaat and her family live behind the impenetrable wall that divides the West Bank, and they're on the wrong side of check points, curfews, and the travel permit system. Plus, Hayaat's best friend Samy always manages to attract trouble. But luck is on the pair's side as they undertake the journey to Jerusalem from the Palestinian Territories when Hayaat and Samy have a curfew-free day to travel.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This suspenseful novel reveals the plight of Palestinians living in occupied territory, as 13-year-old Hayaat braves the journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, trying to fulfill the wish of her ailing grandmother, who dreams of touching the soil of her home once more. In her first middle-grade novel, Abdel-Fattah (Does My Head Look Big in This?) crafts a classic quest and adeptly sketches the strong friendship between Hayaat and her soccer-obsessed friend Samy, who accompanies her through checkpoints, and the memorable cast they encounter along the way, which includes a pair of Israeli peace activists. The rest of Hayaat's family anchor the narrative and prove equally compelling, including Hayaat's older sister, who is preparing for her wedding; her tenacious mother; and her depressed father. Clues to the disfiguring accident that scarred Hayaat and caused the death of her best friend build, illuminating a source of fear and sorrow. Still, Hayaat manages to hold onto hope: "Maybe it's not about survival. Maybe we have to learn how to live with purpose." The heroine's courage, warmth, and humor despite mounting challenges will win over readers. Ages 9–12. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This is a beautifully written book that puts a very human face on the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. The face is the disfigured one of Hyaat, a thirteen-year-old resident of Bethlehem whose family lost their home and land in Jerusalem. Hayaat and her family bear external scars and internal wounds from the loss of their ancestral property, but also from the daily challenges of living under Israeli occupation. Hayaat lives with her family, including her frail and flatulent grandmother, Sitti Zeynab. Hayaat wants her grandmother to live long enough to see Hyaat's sister marry. She decides that getting soil from the home in Jerusalem will bolster Sitti Zeynab's recovery. Hyaat and her friend, Samy, run away to retrieve the soil only to be stopped at checkpoints in mob protests that put him in real danger. The grace of this book is that it is leavened with humor; the life of the family is grim but not hopeless. The Palestinians protest Israeli-imposed curfews by banging pots and pans out the window. There is the family's preparation for the upcoming wedding that will take a beloved daughter to live beyond the checkpoints. There is also Hyaat's sadness at reliving the events that cut her face and killed her best friend. As Hayaat says, "It's not about survival. It's about learning to live with a purpose." The Israelis whom Hayaat meets are not one-dimensional. There are kind soldiers, but also martinets; peace activists who have been imprisoned for opposing Palestinian mistreatment; and everyday people who try to help two children on a special mission. While focused on the Palestinian experience, this book brings balance and excellent storytelling to a difficult subject. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Physically and emotionally scarred, Hayaat lives behind the Israeli-built Separation Wall in the West Bank City of Bethlehem. When her beloved grandmother falls ill, the 13-year-old decides to make her way to Jerusalem to fill an empty hummus jar with soil from the land of her grandmother's ancestral home. She is certain that this will mend her heart. Unfortunately, although Jerusalem is merely minutes away, curfews, checkpoints, and an identity card that doesn't allow her to cross the border mean that Hayaat and her soccer-loving, troublemaker friend Samy face a perilous journey. This novel is an important addition to a very small body of existing books that tell the Palestinian story for young people, and an intensely realistic setting brings that story to life. It is full of humor, adventure, and family love, but doesn't try to hide the heartbreaking and often bitter reality of life under Occupation. Abdel-Fattah manages to walk the line of truth-telling and sensitivity. She has avoided vilifying Israelis and, in fact, Hayaat and Samy could not have completed their journey without the help of a Jewish Israeli couple sympathetic to their cause. A cast of quirky characters adds both humor and realism to the story, making the devastating circumstances more palatable to young readers and keeping the story light in spite of a heavy topic and some dark realizations as the plot moves forward.—Sharon Senser McKellar, Oakland Public Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews

As she did in Does My Head Look Big in This? (2007) and Ten Things I Hate About Me (2009), Abdel-Fattah introduces a bright, articulate Muslim heroine coping with contemporary life, this time during the West Bank Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2004. After the Israelis confiscate and demolish their home, 13-year-old Hayaat and her Palestinian family endure curfews, checkpoints and concrete walls, exiled in a cramped apartment in Bethlehem. Hayaat's father silently mourns his lost olive groves, while her grandmother longs for the Jerusalem home her family abandoned in 1948. With her face scarred by shattered glass, Hayaat wears her own reminder of the occupation. Determined to retrieve some Jerusalem soil for her ailing grandmother, Hayaat and her Christian pal, Samy, secretly embark on a short but harrowing mission into forbidden territory. Hayaat chronicles this life-altering journey in the first-person, present tense, giving readers an intimate glimpse into the life of her warm, eccentric Muslim family, who survive despite the volatile political environment. A refreshing and hopeful teen perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma. (glossary of Arabic words) (Fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545172929
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 451,896
  • Lexile: 740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an attorney, a writer, a chocoholic, and an active member in the interfaith community, as well as the campaign for Palestinian human rights. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels DOES MY HEAD LOOK BIG IN THIS? and TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT ME, both published by Orchard Books. She is also the author of the forthcoming middle-grade novel, WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME, published by Scholastic Press. Ms. Abdel-Fattah lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and their children.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 17, 2011

    This tale, told pretty much through the eyes and experiences of a 13 year old Palestinian child named Hayaat, is tender, tragic and humorous all at the same time. It seeks to illuminate the issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    This story is told in simple truths, although the truth is often only on one side of the issue. Still, I would recommend it as a teaching tool in the middle grades so that this side of the issue, rarely covered, is explored more fully.
    Hayaat lives with her family in a small home in the walled off area of Israel on the West Bank. Her former home was bulldozed to make room for a road in Israel, leading to new settlements. Her father has been fairly despondent ever since he lost his land. Hayaat's best friend is murdered by Israelis during a demonstration and Hayaat is scarred physically and emotionally during the incident. She and her friend are innocent victims. The demonstration, however, was not innocent. The young soldiers got spooked when they were attacked. Dispersing the crowd, tragedy occurred.
    The problems encountered by the families trapped behind the wall are huge and seemingly insurmountable. Traveling to and/or working in Israel is a nightmare. It is time consuming and erratic in nature. New checkpoints can randomly appear depending on the current turmoil. Suicide bombings bring increased security checks, searches, bulldozing of homes and humiliation for them.
    Hayaat's sister is engaged to be married and a wedding is being planned. There is happiness and joy in her home which is a warm and loving environment. Her grandmother is old and ill and she wants to see her homeland again before she dies; she yearns for the land she left behind in Israel. Hayaat adores her and is obsessed with the idea of sneaking into Israel and bringing back some soil from her grandmother's former land. This is an exceedingly dangerous thing to chance but she and her friend Samy decide to try. The people she meets and the dangers she encounters serve as the medium for the story to unfold. Memories are aroused and the hazards of normal daily life are exposed. As philosophical and hopeful as Hayaat is about her life, Samy is angry and defiant. Through their remarks and behavior, we are presented with the larger picture of how the Arab/Israeli conflict is played out in the world.
    Via their experiences, the hardships faced and the sometimes frightening events they witness, some healing takes place. They do come to the realization that everyone, Israeli and Arab alike, really wants to just be allowed to live with dignity, that not all Jews are hateful enemies, that some work to help them achieve freedom and respect. Yet, the reason for their plight is never fully explored so they never quite come to the realization that they bear some responsibility for how they are being treated because of the past behavior of their brethren. The subject of the many wars the Arab nations have declared against Israel is never fully explored.
    Hopefully, it is through the innocent eyes of children, the future generations, that this conflict will be resolved. Hayaat says "I live in an open air prison.so long as there is life there is love." Her message of hope is what the world needs to hear. Her yearning for dignity, purpose and freedom is the book's message.
    This book could be an effective tool to fight hatred and teach students if, at the same time, another book with the opposing position is read and both are analyzed for the reasons the conflict exists and the true history behind all the events is taught, so that one side or another is not always demonized, so that both sides can begin to understand each other and engage in mutual respect.

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