Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1997. Hibibi. NY: Simon & Schuster Books Young Readers. ISBN:0689801491.
* 1998 winner of the American Library Association Notable Children's Book *
* 1998 winner of American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults *
* 1998 Winner of the Jane Addams Book Award *
Fourteen-year-old Arab American Liyana Abboud's life was just getting interested when a boy kissed her on the check. However, that very night she learned that her family was moving from their home in St. Louis to live in Palestine where her father had grown up. Now living just outside of Jerusalem, Liyana struggles to become accustom to her new life among a city where Arabs and Jews are in conflict and as she learns who she is as a person.
Nye's novel is a wonder piece of work that portrays a young girl moving and becoming accustom to a new way of life in Jerusalem. Among its many qualities, it is Nye's smooth narrative and imagery is absolutely lovely and provides the readers with a clear and vivid descriptions of things, places, people and emotions. One example of this is in the chapter "Clover Chain," "St. Louis air smelled of tar and doughnuts, old boards washed up out of the muddy river, red bricks, and licorice. Leafy greens of bushes and tress ran together outside their care" (p.40).
Another perfect example is the the chapter "What You Can Buy in Jerusalem," in which the narrative prides the shops, the food, and the people that one would find exploring the streets of the ancient city. It is also in this chapter that readers get to see the cultural markers that fill the book:
"You can buy gray Arab notebooks with soft covers just the right size for folding once and sticking in your pocket. Liyana's cass used them at school and she'd started using them for her own writings. She liked how the place for a 'title' was on what English speakers would call the back. She even started writing in one back to front" (p.115).The book is filled with cultural marker as it provides a unique opportunity to emerge the readers into a setting that many may not be familiar with at all. One of the most noticable markers is the the tension between the Jews and Palestinians. For Liyana, the conflicts begin to come close to home her grandmother's bathroom is destroyed by Israeli soldiers and when a bomb was set of in the middle of the city. Liyana also has to deal with the growing love for a the boy Omar who turns out to be Jewish, which means their friendship is forbidden.
Clothing, names, food, and customs are also present in book as well. The names are authentic to the culture, such as grandmother Sitti, Liyana's brother Rafik, her new friend Omer, and many more. During her lunch break at school, Liyana will buy hummus, yogurt, or falafel. Readers will also see how people live. Another unique cultural markers is the custom of when a family member returns from the United States, he or she is buy all the female relatives a new dress and help pay for items or pilgrimages. Nye also includes words and phrases in Arabic as well to illustrate how Liyana and Rafik are growing more accustom to the language.
Though the primary culture that is presented in the book is that in Liyana's new life in Palestine there is still moments of cultural exchange, such as whenn Liyana and her family meet her father's family for the first time:
"The women's long dresses were made of thick fabrics, purple, gold, and navy blue, and stitched brightly with fabulous, complicated embroidery. Aunt Lena had rich lines of multicolored rainbow thread wrapped around her wrists. All the women wore gold bangle bracelets. The older ones ad long white scarves draped and knotted firmly over their hair. The young ones had bare heads, which made Liyana feel relieved.Hibibi is a beautiful book that emerges the readers into a different culture and the conflicts that are exists. REaders will learn about the culture and gain a better understanding of it. Plus, those who are from St. Louis will also appreciate the local spots that Liyana remembers being at. This is a highly recommended book for any library collection.
"They wore plastic, slip-on shoes i pastel colors. The modern shoes seem strange with their old-fashio clothes. Aunt Saba touched Liyana's blue-and-yellow Swiss children's watch that had little peopel's heads on the ends of its hands. She put her face down to stare at it and laughed. The women evern touched Liyana's earlobes. She wore no gold earrings, as they did" (p. 40)
Liyana Abboud, 14, and her family make a tremendous adjustment when they move to Jerusalem from St. Louis. All she and her younger brother, Rafik, know of their Palestinian father's culture come from his reminiscences of growing up and the fighting they see on television. In Jerusalem, she is the only "outsider" at an Armenian school; her easygoing father, Poppy, finds himself having to remind her—often against his own common sense—of rules for "appropriate" behavior; and snug shops replace supermarket shopping—the malls of her upbringing are unheard of. Worst of all, Poppy is jailed for getting in the middle of a dispute between Israeli soldiers and a teenage refugee. In her first novel, Nye (with Paul Janeczko, I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You, 1996, etc.) shows all of the charms and flaws of the old city through unique, short-story-like chapters and poetic language. The sights, sounds, and smells of Jerusalem drift through the pages and readers glean a sense of current Palestinian-Israeli relations and the region's troubled history. In the process, some of the passages become quite ponderous while the human story—Liyana's emotional adjustments in the later chapters and her American mother's reactions overall—fall away from the plot. However, Liyana's romance with an Israeli boy develops warmly, and readers are left with hope for change and peace as Liyana makes the city her very own.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Gr 5-9An important first novel from a distinguished anthologist and poet. When Liyana's doctor father, a native Palestinian, decides to move his contemporary Arab-American family back to Jerusalem from St. Louis, 14-year-old Liyana is unenthusiastic. Arriving in Jerusalem, the girl and her family are gathered in by their colorful, warmhearted Palestinian relatives and immersed in a culture where only tourists wear shorts and there is a prohibition against boy/girl relationships. When Liyana falls in love with Omer, a Jewish boy, she challenges family, culture, and tradition, but her homesickness fades. Constantly lurking in the background of the novel is violence between Palestinian and Jew. It builds from minor bureaucratic annoyances and humiliations, to the surprisingly shocking destruction of grandmother's bathroom by Israeli soldiers, to a bomb set off in a Jewish marketplace by Palestinians. It exacts a reprisal in which Liyana's friend is shot and her father jailed. Nye introduces readers to unforgettable characters. The setting is both sensory and tangible: from the grandmother's village to a Bedouin camp. Above all, there is Jerusalem itself, where ancient tensions seep out of cracks and Liyana explores the streets practicing her Arabic vocabulary. Though the story begins at a leisurely pace, readers will be engaged by the characters, the romance, and the foreshadowed danger. Poetically imaged and leavened with humor, the story renders layered and complex history understandable through character and incident. Habibi succeeds in making the hope for peace compellingly personal and concrete...as long as individual citizens like Liyana's grandmother Sitti can say, "I never lost my peace inside."Kate McClelland, Perrot Memorial Library, Greenwich, CT
*Have the readers discuss Liyana's struggle for self-identity.
*Ask the readers if they have ever been a situation like Liyana where they had moved or been to a place that was completely different to what they have known, and ask how they felt. Did they connect with Liyana while reading the book?
*Read Naomi Shihab Nye's other work like : What Have You Lost?, Honeybee: Poems and Short Prose, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, and The Flag of Childhood: Poems From the Middle East.