Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Blog Tour: Review & Q&A of Head Over Heart by Colette Victor (Children's, 9 years +, 10E/10E)

10th July 2014, Chicken House, 240 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Themes: religious values and traditions, topic of dating, headscarfs, weddings, obeying family, being a teenager

Content: teen dating, some humour, tissues needed

Summary from Chicken House
Zeyneb is like any other thirteen-year-old British girl, juggling the demands of her social life, school work and family. But as a Muslim girl attracted to a non-Muslim boy she has more difficult choices – and one very big decision. Now a woman in the eyes of her religion, she must decide if she will wear a headscarf. Zeyneb wants to make the right choice, not just for her family or friends, but for herself.

Nayuleska's thoughts
This is the first story for older readers about a Muslim girl who has to decide whether she wants to wear the headscarf and steer clear from boys who I love 100% Zeyneb is a sweetie. She loves her family dearly despite their differences, that much is clear in the guilt she has when she takes the wrong path and how much she suffers through their effective punishment of not speaking to her when she gets in trouble. I can see both sides of the story. Her parents don't fully appreciate her feelings, they make false assumptions of what she has done. They have little idea of how mature she is in the situations she gets into-not all of them, as she makes a few errors of judgement. On the whole she really battles it out with herself, finding the right path to follow which deep down she knows is right yet can be tempted by a different one. 

It is a huge step to wear the headscarf-as a convert to Islam I made that decision and had similar thoughts and worries to Zeyneb. I wanted to tell her that its mostly not the huge deal that she thinks it is, that we can do anything in it, and most people are supportive. But it's only by experiencing the situation that she reaches a decision which made me so proud of her reasoning. Definitely will be rereading her tale again, no least because her sister gives great advice as does her grandmother who isn't as severe as her parents, but does have her moments. 

Suggested read
For another read on deciding to wear the headscarf check out Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Children's, 11 years +, 9/10E)

Question and Answer session with Collette

Nayu here! It's with great pleasure that I can present this question and answer session I had with Colette about Head Over Heart. A big thank you goes to Colette for writing such an engaging read, and for stopping here at NRC on your blog tour! 

Nayu 1) I've read a few other books where girls face the inner struggle about wearing the hijab (headscarf), but none as lovely as Zeyneb's. I liked how she struggled with completely natural emotions regarding boys, and made what I thought was the right decision. Was there anything in particular you wanted to draw readers' attention to about these two issues? 

Colette: Yes - about the headscarf - I wanted it to be clear that it's a piece of cultural identity that most women choose to wear themselves rather than being forced to wear it. Free choice vs what is often thought to be coercion.
As far as the boy issue goes,I wanted to show that Muslim girls are the same as other girls. It would be preposterous to imply that many Muslim girls didn't feel a flutter in their stomachs when a particular boy walked past. Of course they do. At the end of the day, no matter what anyone says, we are all the same.

Nayu 2)  I adore books which are family based like Zeyneb's, who have distinct personalities who all help contribute to Zeyneb making decisions (even when she thinks they aren't any help at all!). Did the characters of Zeyneb's grandmother and sister change at all from when you first thought of them to the book's final form? 

Colette: No, I wanted a variety of women with different views of the world - like you find in almost any family in real life. I wanted a conservative, traditional woman who does what's expected of her (Zeyneb's mum), I wanted a young woman who appeared modern on the outside and tried to make modern choices but couldn't escape her traditional values no matter how hard she tried and I wanted an old woman who looked at the world with questioning eyes. Just because someone is young doens't mean they're more free in how or what they think. Likewise, just because someone's old, doesn't mean they're old fashioned. 
A woman's position in society, in her family, cannot/shouldn't be forced on her. Of course, to an extent, she will be influenced by how and where she was brought up. But her position in society is also a choice. (At least it is for most of us, and should be for all.) Zeyneb's mum made her choice, so did her sister and so did her grandmother and this affected the course of their lives. This book, Head over heart, is about 
Zeyneb's choice and it will affect her life course.

I wanted to breach the cliche that a headscarf is a symbol of female subjugation and the not wearing of a headscarf is a symbol of emancipation. It's not. The things we wear don't make us who we are. The things we choose make us who we are.

Nayu 3) The inner struggle Zeyneb had about doing the right thing was incredibly realistic. We all have a sense of right and wrong; regardless on what those feelings are based on we've all sort of done something bad, and then ducked out before it was too late. Zeyneb does just that with her friends - had you ever thought about Zeyneb being the type of girl who do the opposite to what she did in the cinema? 

Colette: In real life I know plenty of girls who choose to stay in the cinema and hold hands with the boy in the dark, but that wasn't the story I set out to write. I wanted Zeyneb to have a real internal struggle with where she fitted in, what choices to make. If she'd made a different choice in the cinema, I would've had to write a different book. Also an interesting story, but rather one about a girl leaning more towards the values of the Western culture than towards her traditional values. No, Zeyneb really needed to be torn between the two and that's why she couldn't hold Alex's hand in the darkened cinema.

Nayu: 4) The form of punishment Zeyneb's parents use - ignoring her almost completely - is effective. What made you choose this method instead of her being yelled or something else? 

Colette: In one of Salman Rushdie's books, maybe it was Midnight's Children, the mum punished her children by ignoring them and they absolutely hated it. I've also learnt through my work with parents and educators that it's a very effective form of punishment/correction. I thought, at the time of reading it, that it would be appropriate to use with my own children. Unfortunately I'm only good at it in fictitious situations. In real life I find it hard to ignore my children when they do something wrong.

Nayu: 5) Where's your favourite place to write, and what food and drink do you like while writing? 

Colette: I have an insanely busy life so I'm not fussy about the place where I write or what I eat or drink while I'm doing it. I'm just so grateful when I do find time that I sit down and write anywhere, mostly without even a thought about eating or drinking because that would just be a waste of time. If I'm at home on the rare mornings that I don't have to work and the kids are at school, I'll drink cup after cup of tea, but it's not an absolute requirement. 

No comments: