Monday, April 20, 2009

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf caught my eye in the library. I read the first 150 pages before I admitted to myself that it was going nowhere. It's hard for me to quit on a book.

Kahf's novel is about a woman who grows up in a small Muslim community in Indiana. I just love reading a book about a place I know, but it really read like the author had little familiarity with Indiana. The characters in the book are Islamic fundamentalists who run into oppression both mild and extreme in Indiana (and the US). Maybe it's because I grew up there, but the Indiana bits really stuck out for me as clumsy and a bit hackneyed. For a book about, essentially, diaspora, the sense of place was simply not real for me.

The book kind of rambles along, occasionally switching POV and timeframe rather inexplicably. I started skimming ahead and saw that the main character went through a couple of dramatic (and cliched) changes until, it appeared, she finally became a racecar driver in the Indy 500?

I was also disappointed because some rituals of culture the characters express were unfamiliar to me and there was little explanation - I know the book's not meant to be a 101-Introduction to Islam, but I think greater detail would have enhanced the story.

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