by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

The day after Liyana got her first real kiss, her life changed forever. Not because of the kiss, but because it was the day her father announced that the family was moving from St. Louis all the way to Palestine. Though her father grew up there, Liyana knows very little about her family's Arab heritage. Her grandmother and the rest of her relatives who live in the West Bank are strangers, and speak a language she can't understand. It isn't until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is Jewish, and their friendship is silently forbidden in this land. How can they make their families understand? And how can Liyana ever learn to call this place home?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780689825231
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 06/28/1999
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 185,956
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


Are dreams thinner at thirty-three thousand feet?

When their plane landed at Tel Aviv, Poppy was talking so fast, Liyana couldn't pay close attention to details. Normally she liked to notice trees first — their leaves and shapes — when she arrived in a new place. Then she'd focus on plants, signs, and, gradually, people. Liyana believed in working up to people. But Poppy leaned across the aisle jabbering so fast, she could barely notice the color of the sky.

"When we go through the checkpoint for passports, let me do the talking, okay? We don't let them stamp our passports here. They stamp a little piece of paper instead. And don't leave anything on the plane. Look around! Did you check under the seats? We'll go to the hotel first and rest awhile, then we'll call the village. My family will come in to see us. They won't expect us to travel all the way out to visit them today. Make sure you have everything. Did you get those pistachios? What about that book Rafik was reading?"

"Poppy's nervous," her mother whispered to Liyana. "He hasn't been here in five years."

He was making Liyana nervous, too. Jitterbug bazooka. He didn't like it when she said foolish words lined up, like mousetrap taffy-puller. That's what she did inside her head when she got nervous. Poppy hadn't told his family their exact arrival time on purpose. "They don't need to come to the airport and make a big scene," he said.

Powder-puff peanut. She'd be good. She wouldn't talk at Customs. She wouldn't say, Yes I'm carrying my worst American habits in the zipper pouch of my suitcase and I plan to let them loose in your streets. There's a kiss in there, too! I'll never tell.

Right away, the Israeli agents singled Liyana's family out and made them stand off to the side in a troublemaker line with two men who looked like international zombies. Other travelers — sleek Spaniards, Irish nuns — zoomed right through. The women soldiers at the gate seemed meaner than the men. They all wore dull khaki uniforms. Big guns swung on straps across their backs.

Poppy had said this singling-out treatment often happened to Palestinians, even Palestinian-Americans, but one of Poppy's Palestinian friends had had a better arrival recently, when an Israeli customs agent actually said to him, "Welcome home." Poppy said it depended on what good or bad thing had just happened in the news.

Five years before, when Poppy had traveled here with his friend Mustafa, a Palestinian-American psychiatrist, the customs officer held them up so long at the gate, checking every corner of their suitcases and interrogating them so severely, that Mustafa leaned over, kissed the officer on the cheek, and said, "Let's just be friends, okay?" The Israeli man had been so stunned to be kissed that he waved them both through. And the two of them laughed all the way to Jerusalem.

Today the guard chose his words carefully. "Why are you planning to stay here?" Poppy had written "indefinitely" on the length of their visit when he filled out the papers on the plane. The papers were so boring. Liyana thought of more interesting questions they might ask. What's the best word you ever made in Scrabble?

She heard her father explain, in an unusually high-pitched tone, "I happen to be from here, and I am moving back. I have a job waiting for me at the hospital. I am introducing my family to my country and to their relatives. If you will notice, I have taken care of all the necessary paperwork at the embassy in the United States." He jingled some coins in his pocket. Liyana worried for him. He only jingled coins when he was upset.

The airport guards checked through their suitcases and backpacks extremely carefully. They lifted each item high in the air and stared at it. They wheeled the empty bags away on a cart to be x-rayed. They placed things back in a jumble. Liyana's flowered raggedy underpants fell to the floor and she scooped them up, embarrassed. The guards did not care for her violin. They looked inside its sound hole and shook it, hard. They jabbered fast in Hebrew.

Rafik tried to set his watch by a giant clock on the wall. He said, too loudly, "This airport seems ugly," and their mother shushed him. It was true. The walls were totally gray. There were no welcome posters, no murals, no candy stands. Three other stern-looking guards moved in closer to Liyana's family. Did they think they were going to start a riot or something? The guards looked ready to jump on them. Liyana felt a knot tightening in her stomach.

Maybe one reason their father wanted them to be quiet is they had trouble calling this country "Israel" to begin with. Why? Because Poppy had always, forever and ever, called it Palestine. Why wouldn't he? That's what he called it as a little boy. It was "Palestine" for the first years of his life and that's how most Arabs still referred to it to this day. Maybe he was afraid his family would slip.

In the airplane, somewhere over the Mediterranean, Liyana had whispered to Rafik, "Too bad the country namers couldn't have made some awful combo word from the beginning, like Is-Pal or Pal-Is, to make everybody happy."

Rafik said, "Huh?"

"But hardly anybody there has been pals yet."

"Are you going crazy?"

"And Pal-Is sounds like palace — but they don't even have a king. Do you think they would have been better off with kings?"

Later when the guard at the customs gate pointed at Rafik and asked Liyana weirdly, "Is this your brother?" as if he might be a stranger she'd just picked up in the air, she was moved to say, "He is my pal," and they both started giggling, which made Poppy glare at them worriedly.

The guard sighed. He couldn't find any reason to detain them further. He shoved the passports back at Poppy. "You may go on."

Copyright © 1997 by Naomi Shihab Nye

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Habibi 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Naomi Shihab Nye is a great frienf of mine and is an exelent writer! I really recomend this to girls from ages 10-20! Thanks for reading this and hope you found this helpful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Overall- Habibi was a great book, even though I wanted MORE of the ending. I had to read this book in my class, and for once, the book wasn't so bad. This book was interesting, funny at times, romantic, and also educational in a way. I didn't feel like I was forced to read this book, and read it like any other. It was a page-turner at spots, and okay at others. Overall, I recommend it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 7th brade for my S.S class.Overall I would recommend this book for a rainy day when you're bored.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I greatly enjoyed this book, and maybe for certain people it will be boring but if you enjoy good writing i highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so completely boring.
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Euphoria_May More than 1 year ago
This book was very west side story. When I first read it I thought it was long, because it felt long. Didn't like the ending.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Habibi was a soul-stirring novel that gives a reader all the sweet richness of a Mediterranean dessert! Overall, it was an awe-inspiring tale that forces you into emotions, meanings, symbols, questions and answers that you never would¿ve thought of. It conveyed the message: things aren¿t always as they seem unexpected treasures can be found anywhere and everywhere. It was everything that any person of any age would love! =) I LOVE HABIBI by Naomi Shihab Nye! You should read it! I recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, I read 'a middle schooler's' review and even though I didn't read the book, I disagree with him/her. First of all, you said that 'instead, it's about isreal and arab people' and yeah, of course it is. Since it's set in Jeruselem, you can't just talk about butterflies and puppy dogs. It's about Arab and Isreali people not getting along, and that girl Habiba getting over that to befriend that one guy. Second, you said its not something 10-13 year olds would want to read about. Unless you seem to know every one of those people's opinion, you have no right to state that. That also shows that you don't want to read about stuff that really happens in the world, which is a bit shallow. No, it is VERY shallow. There's no rule about a book being religious 'unless you got something against religion, but that's YOUR problem, not the authors' and i'm pretty sure you're too young to even understand what 'unneccesary content' means or you have a very vague meaning of it. It might be something YOU don't enjoy reading about, but this is LIFE. And it's happening. To people even younger than you. And the author is simply trying to inform you about it so we won't be as ignorant of the world as we are now.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fifteen year old Liyana just got her first kiss and has everything going for her. A nice boy who likes her, an incredible best friend, and a great family, until her dad makes a big announcement. Their whole family is moving back to Palestine. The long drive from the airport gives Liyana a taste of her ancestral homeland, Palestine. Liyana is only starting to know what it feels like to live in Palestine. It isn¿t until Liyana finds out that her father is in jail and her friend has been shot that she realizes what kind of place she¿s living in. It¿s taking Liyana a long time to adjust until she meets Omer a Jewish boy. Their friendship is forbidden but when they start to date, it¿s even harder to keep it a secret. Liyana¿s long hard journey will open up other¿s eyes to realize what it¿s like to live in a world completely different than yours. This story is likely to attract teens, especially people who have moved outside their own culture. Author Naomi Shihab Nye shows what it¿s like to live in such a different culture. She can relate, being Palestinian-American and expresses her thoughts throughout Habibi. She is trying to suggest that not all Jews and Palestinians let their culture get in between them. ¿You will need to be brave. There are hard words waiting in people¿s mouths to be spoken,¿ Liyana¿s grandmother states, encouraging both Liyana and readers to stand up for what they believe in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My personal opinion is that Habibi is a sappy, poorly writtten, boring novel. This book is not what it says to be which is a novel about a teenage girl's transition from her home to Isreal and how she befrieds a jewish boy. Instead, it is about the conflict between Isreal and Arab peoples, and i don't feel that is what people of our age group (10-13) want to read about. Habibi is extremelly religious, includes unneccesary content, and is overloaded with metaphores and crazy puns. If one should still have the desire to read, go ahead.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although the beginning was a little bit boring, it became more interesting. I liked how Liyana had a solution to every problem in Palestine (except the war, of course). There were many lessons that she learned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing book which leads the reader through the twists and turns of the confusing lifestyle of an average Jerusalamanian teenage girl.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Habibi was a great book that taught me about life in Jerusalem. I recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When she moves to Israel, I can jsut feel what she is feeling in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She is lebanese, i am lebanese. I connected with her on so many levels. Nye is a fantastic author in her imagery, culture, and diction. Awsome book, highly recommend it!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great! It talked about the Arab/Jewish situation, but it also emphasized everyday life and humor. It was very down-to-earth. Ms. Nye is an excellent writer. Don't think you'll like it? You're in for a surprise!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Liyana get's her first kiss, wich nobody in her family knows, Liyana was very excited but thier family decides to move to Israel because her father was born there and wants his kids to know his family and culture in Israel. Liyana gets homesick until she meets Omer that her homesickness fades. But Omer is jewish and her parents are Arabs. How can she convince her parents to be a friend of Omer and how will she call this place, HOME?