The Beauty of Your Face

Sahar Mustafah. Norton, $26.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-324-00338-0
Mustafah’s arresting debut about a mass shooting at a Muslim girls’ school grapples with issues of faith, identity, hatred, and forgiveness. Afaf Rahman, principal of a Muslim girls’ school outside Chicago, is in the middle of her morning prayer when sounds of the school’s choir practice are drowned out by gunfire. Mustafah then jumps back to Afaf’s teenage years and spiritual development. The American-born daughter of Palestinian immigrants growing up in the 1970s, Afaf is neglected by her parents after the sudden disappearance of her older sister. After Afaf reluctantly accompanies her father to prayer, despite the scorn of her determinedly secular mother, she finds in a Muslim community center the acceptance her home life lacks. In between short segments of the harrowing scene at Afaf’s school, Mustafah depicts Afaf ‘s coming-of-age, from the joys of the hijab celebration to the hard-won rewards of pilgrimage. Returning to the present, Mustafah explores the motivations of the shooter, who was self-radicalized by hateful messages he found online, and captures a startling series of interactions between him and Afaf (“Tell me your pain,” she says to the shooter, amid the horrifying carnage). Throughout, Mustafah powerfully demonstrates the human capacity for redemption and renewal. This inviting, topical tale will stay with readers. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 02/06/2020
Release date: 04/07/2020
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-78955-973-6
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