Cover Image: The Beauty of Your Face

The Beauty of Your Face

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#๐šš๐š˜๐š๐š Does religion have a face? If so, how does it look like? Does religion modify a personโ€™s character? Does it also give them an identity?

๐ˆ ๐ค๐ง๐จ๐ฐ ๐ˆโ€™๐ฏ๐ž ๐š๐ฌ๐ค๐ž๐ ๐ฆ๐š๐ง๐ฒ ๐ช๐ฎ๐ž๐ฌ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐ฌ ๐ข๐ง ๐š ๐ ๐จ ๐›๐ฎ๐ญ ๐ญ๐ซ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐ญ ๐ฆ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎโ€™๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐›๐ž ๐š๐›๐ฅ๐ž ๐ญ๐จ ๐Ÿ๐ข๐ง๐ ๐š๐ฅ๐ฅ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐š๐ง๐ฌ๐ฐ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ ๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐›๐จ๐จ๐ค๐Ÿ“–

#๐š‹๐š˜๐š˜๐š”๐š›๐šŽ๐šŸ๐š’๐šŽ๐š ๐Ÿ‘‡

๐Ÿง•๐Ÿฝ ๐“๐ก๐ž ๐›๐ž๐š๐ฎ๐ญ๐ฒ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐Ÿ๐š๐œ๐ž is about a Palestinian American Woman named Afaf Rahman. She is working as the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls in the suburbs of Chicago. While everything was going fine then suddenly a misfortunate event takes place, her school is attacked by an alt-right shooter. The book opens up with this event and throughout the book, we are taken back to her childhood and adulthood before this terrible day arrives. Throughout her journey we learn how painful her life was- her older sister disappeared without any evidence, her motherโ€™s ignorance towards her and her brother, her motherโ€™s desire to leave them and return to her home country, Palestine and her fatherโ€™s alcoholism. And if this is not enough then her struggle to fit in as a Muslim woman in America.

๐Ÿง•๐Ÿฝ This book is carefully written and a well researched work done by the author. It sheds light on some major struggles and a community of people with a beautiful culture that is often victimized in our society. 

๐Ÿง•๐Ÿฝ I can totally relate with the main character, Afaf. Sahar Mustafah has done a splendid job in showing Afafโ€™s strength throughout the story and the way she described the muslim culture and religion. The way characters got devoted towards god and made their lives better and worth living. ๐“๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐›๐ž๐š๐ฎ๐ญ๐ฒ ๐จ๐Ÿ ๐ซ๐ž๐ฅ๐ข๐ ๐ข๐จ๐ง. ๐ˆ๐ญ ๐ฌ๐ญ๐ซ๐ž๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ง๐ฌ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐›๐ž๐ฅ๐ข๐ž๐Ÿ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ง๐ก๐š๐ง๐œ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ฉ๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐จ๐ง๐š๐ฅ๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ & ๐ฅ๐ž๐ญ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐›๐ž๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž ๐š ๐ ๐จ๐จ๐ ๐ก๐ฎ๐ฆ๐š๐ง ๐›๐ž๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ฐ๐จ๐ซ๐ญ๐ก ๐ฅ๐ข๐ฏ๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฌ๐จ๐œ๐ข๐ž๐ญ๐ฒ ๐ฐ๐ข๐ญ๐ก ๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ๐ฒ ๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐ก๐ฎ๐ฆ๐š๐ง ๐›๐ž๐ข๐ง๐  ๐ฐ๐ข๐ญ๐ก ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฏ๐žโ˜ป

Thanks @netgallery and @saharmustafahwriter for the ebook๐Ÿ–ค
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Thank you to Netgalley, Legend Press and Sahar Mustafah for this e-copy in return for my honest review. After recently reading Colum McCann's Apeirogon I was delighted to have the opportunity to read this book based upon a Palestine-American's experience. The book is beautifully crafted, both poignant and endearing. Definitely a book of our times and a must read. Simply superb.
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Thank you to Legend Press for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

This book was incredible and so poignant and just made me feel all the emotions. Highly recommend this book!

This is such a profound book, a book where I felt so seen on so many levels. What it means to be a child of immigrants. Of parents who left everything and everyone behind to try to start a new life where their children will be safe but how they have to still battle, itโ€™s just a different type of battle. One of having to prove you are not stupid, one where you have to watch people sexualise you based on the colour of your skin, where you are treated less because of it.

It was a book I could relate to being a child of parents and grandparents who moved from their home countries to the west to try and build a better life for their kids. The conflicting feelings of a child from two worlds not knowing where they fit in, not enough for either their family culture or of living in the west spoke to me deep in my soul. This whole book was something I felt deep in my soul, how Afaf is lost as a teen and then slowly finds her path and her faith and how it anchors her and gives meaning to her life was so beautiful to read.

Most of the story is exploring Afafโ€™s life growing up and her finding her faith until we meet the adult Afaf that is headteacher of an Islamic Girls School. We see what she feels and thinks as there is a shooter terrorising the school and she is stuck in the prayer room. We also see a little from the shooters point of view and how his blind hatred lead him to murdering innocent teenage girls. He didnโ€™t even once try to understand who they were, he found it unacceptable that they were โ€œdifferentโ€ because of their religion so therefore a threat. Itโ€™s something we still see today, something that I have experienced, something I see happen to those around the world.

I think itโ€™s such an important book for people to read, it shows how complicated it is being an immigrant, trying to fit into a place that doesnโ€™t really want you there, that thinks you are less because of the colour of your skin. To see how blind hatred can cause so much death and destruction. This book is such an important and relevant book and I really need you all to read it.
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Loved this novel. It was captivating and told a story of an area which I know very little about in a way that was accessible, relatable, but also deeply moving. It is rare to find an author who can merge two worlds in such an intricate way without it becoming inaccessible to the reader but this novel manages to do so. I felt the ending let the book down a bit as it was a little rushed and wrapped up too neatly compared to the rest of the story. Overall a great book and worth reading.
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Afaf is having a normal day as the principal of an all-girls Muslim school that has been converted from a nunnery. She takes a quick break to pray in an old confessional booth when suddenly she hears gunshots above.

The reader is then transported back in time to Afaf's childhood. Her sister disappears, leading her father to drink and her mother's mental health spiraling. Afaf makes questionable choices as a teenager. Islam enters the family's life, rescuing Afaf and Baba from their dangerous behaviors and giving them something to believe in; but their religion also comes with xenophobia as people make comments about Afaf's hijab. Then 9/11 happens and the violence and viciousness become worse.

Meanwhile, a middle-aged white male finds an online community that despises "foreigners." He becomes radicalized, threatening his Indian neighbors, before making the decision to bring weapons into the Nurrideen Girl's School.

He finds Afaf in the confessional. She attempts to humanize herself and the girls toward him. This day will change Afaf and her family's life forever.

I appreciated that the book showed Afaf's journey to Islam. She found a home in the religion, whereas she never felt like she belonged with her family. It also helped to bridge a gap between her and her father and they shared a spiritual journey. I did feel as though the book were unbalanced though. It was difficult to read about the shooting and I definitely did not want more of that, but the aftermath felt less developed especially after Afaf's sister returns to her life, explaining that she ran away all those years ago. I wanted to see more of their getting to know each other again.
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โ€œThis circle of women and their daughters propel her to do good, to love Allah, and learn that His Love reflects back once you open your heart. Before she could fathom His great bounty, she had loved these women first, could touch and gather their kindness in her hands, could wrap herself in their grace until she could start to love herself again.โ€
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As someone who doesnโ€™t always read the synopsis and likes to open a book without any preconceived ideas, the opening of The Beauty of Your Face caught me unawares. It starts with a school shooting at the Nurrideen school, a Muslim school for girls in Tempest, Illinois. School principle Afaf Rahman is in the basement when the first shots are fired and she hears the tragedy unfolding overhead in real time just as we do. Itโ€™s hard to read, particularly in the context of the Christchurch mosque shootings here in New Zealand. Just as it was becoming overwhelming, the novel takes us back to 1976 and Afafโ€™s childhood in Chicago growing up as the middle daughter of Palestinian immigrants


On the day that we meet Afafโ€™s family, her elder sister Nada does not come home. A police investigation follows. Afafโ€™s mother becomes increasingly withdrawn and her Baba starts to drink until an accident forces him to stop. The depiction of his gradual reconnection with Islam, and that of Afaf, was beautifully written. I was profoundly moved by the sense of community and peace that Afaf felt the first time that she went to the Islamic Centre


There are so many reasons that I loved this debut novel by Sahar Mustafah 
~ The interwoven use of Arabic in the text
~ The enveloping warmth of Afafโ€™s Islamic community and the depiction of her deepening faith
~ The opportunity to develop my understanding of the prejudice and racism faced by American-Muslims, particularly after 9/11
~ The insights into Afafโ€™s decision to wear the Hijab 
~ The portrayal of Hajj 
~ The importance of female friendship


2020 seems to be the year of fantastic debuts and this one particularly taught me so much, thank you Sahar Mustafah for The Beauty of Your Face and to NetGalley and Lucy at Legend Press for my copy
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Sahar Mustafah's debut novel, The Beauty of Your Face, explores the complexities of growing up as a first-generation Palestinian-American, with a gruesome school-shooting as the backdrop. 
The book zeros in on Afaf Rahman, a Palestinian-American principal of Nurrideen School for Girls in Tempest, Illinois. One typical morning, Afaf's life takes a devastating turn when a shooter radicalised online attacks the school. It is during Afaf's encounter with the gunman that the main plot of The Beauty of Your Face takes shape.

The story revolves around memory, and early on in the book the reader can see how this theme plays a poignant role in the plot delivery as supporting characters are introduced through Afaf's recollections. This prepares the reader for the rhythmic alternation between the present and past that unfolds later on in the story.  

In 1976, when the eldest daughter of the Rahman household, Nada, goes missing, the family falls apart and the cracks created by migration begin to show. 

Through the family's loss, Mustafah highlights how immigration and the yearning for home affect people's emotional availability - and may ultimately destroy their family relationships.

Afaf's mother, nursing a deep desire to return to Palestine, devoted all of her attention to Nada, who was born in Palestine, in the hope that she could preserve her love for home in her daughter's Palestinian-ness. This devotion transforms into a years-long mental breakdown after Nada's disappearance, which left Afaf and her brother, Majeed, with no staunch motherly support to overcome the identity crisis they would face in their early years. 

Mahmood, Afaf's father, although more expressive with his emotions, turns to music from his oud, alcohol, and adultery to make sense of the loss and his own nostalgia. It is during this period that Afaf, at ten years old, begins to experience micro-aggressions and racist bigotry. 

Mustafah sprinkles everyday micro-aggressions experienced by MENA immigrants and Muslims into several parts of the story, thereby pointing to the longstanding implicit bias against immigrants, even before 9/11. Afaf's classmates, mostly white, taunt her repeatedly throughout school and Nada's disappearance causes other Arab mothers to forbid their daughters from engaging with Afaf. This leaves her without a support system to help her through her experiences. 
	
The micro-aggressions further manifest in the school system. Her English teacher refuses to upgrade her reading assignments because "she hasn't mastered English properly"; the social worker wants to know "if her parents are too strict" when she defends herself after a white classmate assaulted her. 

Afaf, unable to fully understand these comments for what they were, internalises them and begins to nurture a self-hate that slowly eats away at her confidence. This process of damaged self-esteem is often experienced by second and third-generation immigrants and Mustafah highlights this struggle through Afaf's thoughts and acts of rebellion. 

After a near-death experience, Mahmood turns to Islam and encourages his family to do the same, but only Afaf, with her longing for a safe space, heeds his call. At the Islamic centre, Afaf eventually finds Islam, a lifelong friend, and a welcoming community.

There is a deliberate uncoupling of Islam with Afaf's Palestinian heritage in the story and by doing so Mustafah debunks the widespread notion that being of MENA heritage automatically equals being 'Muslim'. She further solidifies this by introducing other Muslim characters who don't share Afaf's Palestinian heritage: there is Bilal, her Bosnian husband, and the Parkers, a Black family whose patriarch becomes one of Mahmood's closest friends. 
 
There are also ample descriptions of Islamic rituals and practices as well as sayings that are common in the Muslim community. In addition to these, Mustafah also touches on the culture of silence in the Muslim community on issues like domestic violence, when in later years some members of the centre try to guilt-trip Afaf into dismissing the abuse of one of her students. 

The Beauty of Your Face is the quintessence of Muslim representation as its characters explore their religion for the sole purpose of faith, and not as an unspoken extension of their heritage.

Although the school shooting, an important narrative arc in the story, does not take up as many parts as Afaf's memories, this does not take away from Mustafah's striking storytelling. 

Afaf's recollections mirror the brief glimpses of the shooter's past; in pain, loneliness, and a sense of alienation. Afaf recognises this during her encounter with the shooter when she asks him to "tell her about his pain".

By superimposing two similar experiences of two completely different people, Mustafah illustrates to the reader that hurt people don't always have to hurt other people to feel peace: they just have to make the choice not to become the aggressor. 

Afaf turns to faith to guide her through her pain and she ends up contributing meaningfully to society; the shooter turns to online white supremacist platforms and upends Afaf's work, leaving more pain and hurt in his wake. 

Language is another pivotal tool that Mustafah uses to craft the story. The dialogue between most of the characters include many Arabic sentences, phrases, and words, which add a more personal touch to the Palestinian heritage of the main character. 

Mustafah also deliberately uses 'Amerkan' to replace 'American' to illustrate the hybrid that is created when English blends with an immigrant's mother tongue: a hybrid which might not fit the white supremacist view of what an American should sound like but that nonetheless serves as proof that America is truly a melting pot.

The Beauty of Your Face is unique in the way Mustafah guides readers into a world where the tables are turned: 'Muslim-ness', which is often equated with 'terrorism', suffers a devastatingly gruesome pain at the hands of the ostensibly innocent 'whiteness'.
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The Beauty of Your Face is the story of Afar, the high school principal at an Islamic girls school that is subjected to a racially targeted shooting by a far right extremist. We flip between the shooting itself and Afaf's childhood and emmigrating to Chicago. As would be expected, there's a lot of discussion about racial identity, racism (particularly Islamaphobia) but also the beauty of Islam as a religion, including the Hajj. 

I'm a white, British woman raised within a Church of England setting. As such, I know very little about Islam, and I appreciated everything I learnt from this. There's so much to take away in terms of pilgrimage, what it means to be a Muslim in today's Western society, and I particularly liked Afaf's struggles relating to education and modern Islam. What I wasn't so keen on was the actual shooting itself. It feels very much like a tacked on plot device, with very little overall development. The start of the book is very tension filled, as the reader anticipated what is going to happen - but then we flashback to Afaf's past before we see the outcome. It affected the pacing, and the constant backward and forwards stopped me from getting invested in these characters. 

The premise is good, but I would have preferred a deep dive look into either Afaf's life or the shooting and it's aftermath. It feels like two separate stories. However, I fully appreciate the wealth of knowledge I took away from this.
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The story is about a dysfunctional/broken family: a muslim family, living in the US. It's about their struggles, as a family and as a community. 

The book is somewhat divided in two parts: one that tells tells about Afaf's childhood, which I really liked. The other when Afaf is a married woman with kids, the principal of a girl's school that gets attacked. 

Okay, the plot is good, the writing/language is really good, however I didn't find it very engaging. It's inconsistent --sometimes, it hooks you, but sometimes it just goes on without interesting incidents or conversations. Certain incidents, especially in the second half, are unnecessary stretched.  I really liked the first part, Afaf's childhood but the shooting part didn't seem very effective. And sadly, I couldn't connect with the main character, Afaf. One more thing that I often felt while reading the book ---it didn't seem like a story that's set in the US, except for some names, obviously. 

You may like it if literary fiction is your genre.
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Really enjoyed this brilliant book by Sahar Mustafah! I thought the storytelling was excellent and loved her writing style. Couldn't put it down and raced through it in just a couple of days. Definitely recommend if you're looking for a book that's thought-provoking, intelligent and engaging.
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This book was honestly magnificent. Itโ€™s one of my favourites of the year so far, and Iโ€™ve since forced it onto my mum. 

The Beauty of Your Face looks back at the life of Palestinian American Afaf while sheโ€™s held up in a school shooting. But really, the bigger story is her life - the shooting is just an anchor to tell that story from.

I really really love what a complex character Afaf is. Sheโ€™s Palestinian American, but sheโ€™s never been to Palestine - itโ€™s a far off place sheโ€™s never known and canโ€™t imagine. America is her home. Her family also isnโ€™t religious and she herself doesnโ€™t become religious until later in the book.

Itโ€™s just the story of a girl living her life, going through growing pains and family trauma, figuring out what she wants from her life.

Itโ€™s emotive, heartbreaking, and incredibly powerful. But most importantly, itโ€™s human.

Another element to the book is flashbacks to the shooterโ€™s earlier life. Something that really really stuck with me was the descriptions of how he worked as a handyman in peopleโ€™s homes. These are the places people are their most vulnerable and most comfortable. To read about people facing racism in their own homes was completely heartbreaking, especially in contrast to the whole book looking deeply at Afafโ€™s normal and complicated life.
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How many of us have struggled with identity? Reeling from being alone and unwanted to finding a niche in a tiny little community one can call its own.
Choices could be so tricky, particularly when you are living in a world where you could be harmed from making one that goes against the collective comfort of the majority. 

What happens when you are staring hate in the eye? Meet Afaf, the principal of Nurrideen School, an immigrant, a Muslim, a woman, and you have ticked all the wrong boxes in the lottery of fate. 
The book opens on the precipitous stage of an unfortunate school shooting. From there, we go back and forth, learning about Afaf's childhood, and the origins of the shooter's misunderstood hate. 

This book is a rare insight into the state of mind of a person driven to hate another person by propaganda and shrills cries of reclaiming their homeland. This book is a poignant portrayal of a human being coming to terms with her identity, learning to be comfortable with it, and drawing comfort from it. Both these people have their faith, one deep in mistrust, and the other radiant in trust. 

The array of human conflict on display will stay with you long after the story is over. You will grow with the character, and you will rejoice in their fortunes. You will sigh with their loss and feel the shaky grounds which tests them to the core. 

Honest and realistic, this one should be read.
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"A Palestinian American woman wrestles with faith, loss, and identity before coming face-to-face with a school shooter in this searing debut."

This book is not what I expected. When I saw the blurb on NetGalley I was like YES, this is for me! I jumped into it thinking the plot would be centered around the shooting and an action packed novel. 

However, it centres round Afaf, a Palestinian American woman and her life story. The book follows Afaf through her childhood, finding her religion and then through her adulthood, all leading up to the school shooting. 

I really enjoyed it and it was a different read for me. Opened my eyes and broke my heart. Really recommend it!

A huge thank you to NetGalley, Legend Press and Sahar Mustafah for providing a copy of the book.
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I really wanted to like this, but honestly it was just too much plot crammed into a weak framing device--I would have rather read a book just about Afaf's sister disappearing or just the shooting and its aftermath, rather than both those plots plus all the other content Mustafah put in. Afaf was not a very interesting character and I felt her growth didn't say very much. I'd read something from Mustafah again, I think she just wanted to pull off too much with this particular book.
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Thank you Netgalley for this ARC of The Beauty of Your Face.

THIS BOOK.  I loved loved it.  I devoured it whole in 24 hours.  

I'm not going to run through the whole synapses, but I will tell you all the reasons I loved it.

It covers so many topics with nothing but eloquence.  You get family, drama, culture, romance, mystery, tragedy, racism, so much.  The writing is lovely, full of descriptive detail and heart.  The characters are very complex, as are their relationships.  I really felt like I really knew these people and their family dynamic.  I learned a lot more about the Muslim religion and what a scary time it was for Muslim Americans after 9/11.  I loved getting a first hand account of what a modern day life would be like for a practicing Muslim woman who wears the hijab.  And then it takes a totally unexpected turn that will make your heart race.

This is full of triggers, abuse, violence, shootings, etc.  It's not explicitly graphic, but proceed with caution.
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The Beauty Of Your Face is beautifully written and flows well throughout. A coming-of-age story that takes us through Afafโ€™s life and how she gets to where she is as the principal of a Muslim girls school. Identity is a big theme in this book and is explored through Afaf. She struggles to place herself within her family unit, amongst people in school and mostly within herself. Sheโ€™s lost. I loved reading about Afaf finding solace in religion and how it transformed her character from being lost to being resilient. It was really refreshing reading about her character growth. 
This book explores the bigotry Muslim communities face in numerous ways: racial slurs, the impact of 9/11 and the alt-right. It really captures the sheer volume of bigotry Muslim people face on a day-to-day basis. The horrendous mistreatment dealt with in public places. It was heart-breaking reading about Afafโ€™s experience of this. 
The opening scenes of the school shooting grab your attention from the beginning and you become engrossed in Afafโ€™s story and she ended up in that place, at that time. Mustafah explores themes such as familial divisions, religion, the trauma of school shootings, mental health and identity. I think this book is relevant in todayโ€™s climate and reflects on its society. A well written, eye opening, contemporary book.
Thank you to Legend Press and Netgalley for letting me read this book in exchange for a review.
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One of my favourite books this year. Hauntingly honest and profoundly stirring, Sahar Mustafahโ€™s remarkable debut captivated me completely.

Set against the backdrop of a mass shooting at a Muslims girlsโ€™ school, Mustafah strips back her narrative and protagonist to reveal a rich and robust insight into issues surrounding faith and forgiveness, community and compassion, oppression and belonging.

Written with grace, empathy and precision, The Beauty of Your Face is an achingly beautiful and alarmingly timely tale that will stay with long after the last page.
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My special thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for sending me this novel in exchange for an honest and independent review.
 
When the novel begins, Afaf is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, an institution for Muslim girls located in the outskirts of Chicago. The author quickly establishes Afafโ€™s fairness and her competence in handling parental complaints in an efficient and capable manner.
 
There is a sudden and premeditated attack on the school by an unbalanced and emotionally disturbed man. While Afaf is at prayer, she hears gunshots and screams of terror. Enclosed in her prayer room, Afaf revisits her life but what makes her do so is never explained.
 
The single most devastating influence on this family of Palestine immigrants is the sudden disappearance, one evening, of Nada, the elder sister of Afaf and Majeed. This leads to the disintegration of the family, the fatherโ€™s alcoholism, the psychological problems of the mother who becomes a depressed woman with suicidal instincts.
 
Through the narration of her thoughts, we learn that Afaf grows up without any guidance from her parents, especially her mother who is distant and unconcerned. She has no friends at school and to establish her sense of identity and to prove she is alive, she has a series of unsatisfactory and unfulfilling sexual affairs with white men.
 
Her father meets with an accident, abandons alcohol, turns to religion and, in a very convincing manner, the author portrays Afafโ€™s gradual movement towards the comforts of Islam.
 
Whereas Afafโ€™s life and her development as a character are convincingly portrayed, it is the attack on the school which is not very credible. The justification for this attack and the ease with which an assassin can enter a school with unbelievably lax security leaves much to be desired
 
The novel seems to be two books loosely combined. There is no real connection between the two strands of the novel. The author does not explain why the shooting would have led to such an unravelling of Afafโ€™s life story. It is disappointing that such a powerful and well written story of Afafโ€™s life is juxtaposed with that of the shooter without much connection between the two.
 
A small correction: On one page, towards the end of Chapter 3, the word โ€œwretchedโ€ has wrongly been used instead of โ€œretchedโ€
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This wasnโ€™t quite the book I thought it would be, as I expected the author to concentrate on the aftermath of a school shooting. And perhaps that was the whole point of Mustafahโ€™s book, to challenge our preconceived ideas, the stereotypes we have of situations and people within our society.

It started with the schools shooting, not in your everyday multiracial school but the Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school, its headmistress Afaf, who hid in an old confessional as the shooter ran amok. It was almost as she listened to the screams, to the random shots that she saw as the phrase goes, โ€˜her life flash before herโ€™. Mutsafah, cleverly looked back, to Afafโ€™s childhood, to her family and what made her the woman she was today.

It was an utterly fascinating and honest portrayal of the conflict religion can cause, of the comfort and sense of belonging it can give to a person.

Afaf at the outset was just an ordinary young girl of an immigrant family, a family whose roots stemmed from Palestine, who hoped to find riches in the suburbs of Chicago. Their family wasnโ€™t perfect, a mother, who really didnโ€™t want to be there, an older sister, the apple of her eye, a father who worked hard and a younger brother,Majeed. As so often happens a major event can set off a reaction, a future that was perhaps not the one anticipated and so it was that the disappearance of older sister, Nada became the catalyst. Afaf was the onlooker, the one who watched as her family fell apart, a mother who recoiled within herself, a father who turned to alcohol.

Afaf, herself was completely lost, the buffer between her warring parents, a sense of responsibility towards her younger brother. It wasnโ€™t until her father found his own religion, took her to a meeting that Afaf finally found a place she belonged, something that brought her comfort and peace.

Story ended you might have thought, but no for me this is where the real crux of the novel lay. Mustafah didnโ€™t give us the happy ever after, she carefully considered what being a Muslim in America actually meant. Did people still view you the same as everyone else, was there general acceptance and how did it change Afafโ€™s life.

In so many ways, Mustafah gave us an Afaf who on the one hand found life easier, the rituals, the comraderie a comfort, a place where she finally had friends. Yet outside the confines of the mosque, she was met with scorn, derision, the hajib, the outward facing symbol that marked her as different, foreign, not a true American. The twin towers terrorist attack amplified her difference, all Muslims terrorists, unwanted even if she was a born and bred American.

It was a devastating, thought provoking narrative, the shooting the climax, the representation of true hate, of ignorance. Mustafah was careful to maintain a balance, religion at its heart but also the consequences of our upbringing, the role of the media and those around us, another contributing factor to attitudes, and actions.

The Beauty Of Your Face was an important book, itโ€™s themes serious but Mustafah retained the most important essence of a novel, to tell a story, to immerse the reader in the life of Afaf, a life that will be hard to forget.
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This is a book of two stories.
The first is of Afaf, the middle child of a Palestinian refugee family living in suburban Chicago.  Her parents are struggling, especially after the elder daughter disappears.  As the years pass Afaf becomes more rebellious but takes a new path when she and her father reconnect with Islam.  In these sections the author's love and respect for Islam shines as does Afaf's determination to live wearing a hijab.  The bigotry she mets is quite threatening.
Interweaved with Afaf's life story is the day she finds her school, where she is Principal, attacked by a loan gun man.  This part of the story is probably not as strong.
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