Editorial Review: A Girl From The Middle East by Nada Alachkar
A Girl From The Middle East, by Nada Alachkar, begins with Nora looking back on her life. At fifty, Nora has a wide collection of experiences and memories, both positive and negative, and over the course of the book, she shares these with readers. The casual narration style and heartfelt personal stories make this book feel like a long talk with a good friend.
Nora’s life begins in a fairly traditional family in the Middle East. It’s always interesting to read about daily life in a foreign country, and readers can learn a lot about traditional Middle Eastern beliefs and customs from Nora’s account of her childhood and her school days. Nora’s one of the middle daughters in a large family who didn’t much value girls, in a society that strongly favors men over women. She was not the oldest, the youngest, or the most accomplished in her family. Even though Nora does pretty well academically, her good grades aren’t very noteworthy in such a successful family, and in her society, a girl’s accomplishments will never be as valued as a boy’s. She feels unimportant, trying never to be a burden to those around her. Throughout the whole book, readers can see how Nora’s childhood affects her life.
Although her life is very different from most American childhoods, this is an emotionally relatable story. Nora struggles to fulfill her parents’ expectations, find love in a society of arranged marriages, and just to find her place in that world. As Nora develops the bravery and strength to survive, all without losing her unique personality, readers will understand her feelings and root for her success.
Once she arrives in the US, Nora struggles with communicating in English, making friends, having her medical qualifications accepted in a new country, and just dealing with American priorities. At one point, she struggles to find good and trustworthy friends in the US, and although the exact circumstances are unique to Nora’s story, the experience of loneliness is universal and all readers will empathize.
A Girl From The Middle East is not only one person’s life story, but a look at the lives of many women and many immigrants to the US. When Nora goes through an arranged marriage and tries to escape an unfair life with an angry, unkind man, it’s dramatic because readers have been led to care for Nora. But this experience isn’t only Nora’s story, instead, Nora’s story highlights these unspoken troubles in many women’s lives.
Like real life, this book doesn’t exactly follow a story arc with a simple conflict and resolution. Instead, the book is more like a series of scenes or vignettes, all leading to a complete picture of Nora’s life. Sometimes a smart choice turns out to have negative consequences, and sometimes Nora is able to turn a setback around. This makes her feel more and more realistic. Readers can see Nora grow and change throughout the book. Towards the end of the novel, she jokes about being too blunt or having “no filter,” which shows both a funny moment in her successful, high-stress medical career and how far she has come from being a quiet middle child.
A Girl From The Middle East is an engaging story about one woman’s struggles and successes throughout her life. Nora’s thoughts, memories, and experiences make her feel like a complex and lively character. This story is written with warmth and compassion but doesn’t hold anything back in describing the setbacks and stereotypes Noroa encounters.