Author: Naomi Shihab Nye
Reading Level: 5th and up
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Edition: Hardcover, 1997
When I say a novel is comprised of a series of character studies, I usually mean that in a negative way. I usually mean that there is no story or there is no emotional impact. However, when I say that there are impeccable character studies abound in Habibi, I mean that Nye is so skilled at “sculpting” her characters that they all come to life, each of them in 3D glory! Their relationships — from a street vender who appears in two brief scenes, to Liyana and her family members and her new found friends — are incredibly real and moving. Yes, there is not a strong story-arc and yet you don’t feel like you’d put the book down — you want it to go on for a long long time. You want to know what happens to the budding romance between Liyana (American/Arabic) and Omer (Jewish) in the city that divides them by ethnicities (Jerusalem). You want to know how Poppy’s (Father) new found cause of making the country better and more peaceful develops. You want to watch Rafik (Liyana’s cool nerd of a younger brother) grow up and see what kind of girlfriend he’ll have.
A tender book about a violent time and place that is both important and more than well articulated. Nye’s native skill as a poet adds sparkle and dimension to her story.