07 December 2009

Where the streets had a name

by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Pan Macmillan. Australian, Young Adult. Paperback rrp $16.99

Hayaat is a 13-year-old girl living on the West Bank of Israel. Her life isn’t easy. Curfews force residents to stay indoors for days at a time and Hayaat lives in a small two-bedroom home with her parents, siblings and grandmother. She shares a bed with two siblings and the room with her grandmother. Her best friend, Samy is an orphaned boy who is always getting Hayaat and himself into trouble. Her other best friend is dead. Every time Hayaat looks into the mirror her scarred face reminds her of her friend’s death, and her own lucky escape.

But Hayaat is also on a mission. Her grandmother is sick and just once, before she dies, would like to be able to touch the soil of her ancestral home in Jerusalem. Hayaat wants to go to her grandmother’s home and return with the soil. It’s a simple journey of only a few kilometres but navigating through check points, curfews, permits and a large impenetrable wall, makes it an impossible task.

Hayaat doesn’t even know what the names of the streets are because the wall has been built down the middle of the roads. She imagines that the street names are on the other side. Can two 13-year-old children attempt the impossible and come back safe and sound, or will they just disappear forever?

Where the streets had a name should be read by every teenager to see how different life can be in other parts of the world. Though her storytelling, with humour and simplicity, Abdel-Fattah encourages the reader to think about the universal problem of race and religion.

Where the streets had a name won the 2009 Golden Inky teenage choice award. http://www.insideadog.com.au/inkys/

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