A Map of Home Paper: Critical Analysis of Novel

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A Map of Home is a story about immigrants from the Eastern that lived in Western, especially in America. The main character of the novel is Nidali. Nidali is born to a Palestinian father, named Waheed and an Egyptian mother, named Fairuza. Nidali has one brother, named Gamal. In the novel, it mostly tell about life story of Nidali, started from she was kid until adult. Nibali was born in Boston. When she was born, her father supposed her that she was male but in fact she was female. Because her father wanted to get a new job, so after Nidali’s birth, they moved to Kuwait. Nidali’s name means strife, struggle. The name was a female variant of the world ‘Nidal’. Its name was symbolic of her present conditions. Nidali moves from various worlds of home from Eastern to Western. First, Nidali spent her childhood in Kuwait. When lived in Kuwait, she was confused why her other friends didn’t have same religion with her, Islam. She asked God to Linda who a Christian. She didn’t believe what Linda said, that God has son. So she asked about God to her mama and her teacher in school. But the teacher instead asked her to join the Koran contest to answer about God. When she is slightly order, Essam her cousin lived with her and destroyed Nidali’s collection of Wonder Woman stickers. Because her cousin is religious, he regarded the collecion of Wonder Woman sticker as a prostitute because the lak of clothing that Wonder Woman wears.

After lived in Kuwait for several years, Nidali and family flees to Egypt in 1990 because of war, when Saddam Hussein runs an Iraqi insurgency of Kuwait. The bombs blown up on Nidali 13th birthday and Nidali fled to Egypt. In Alexandria, Nidali and family was picked up by Geddo (Nidali’s grandfather). In Egypt, Nidali continued her study in El-Nas’r Girl school where some subjetcs were taught in English. In Egypt, Nidali met a friend, named Jiji. After a while, Nidali is sent by her parents to live with one of her grandparents who has fallen ill. In Nidali’s new neighborhood, she had a boyfriend, named Fakhr. Nidali and Fakhr spent the days together by riding bicycle, stealing paper from stationery stores, reading it to the cafes, playing shiny coins, and etc. Nidali is also experienced with her sexualities and learned about masturbation. She was not only kissed with Jiji (female) but also her boyfriend Fakhr. Nidali realized that she lived in Egypt, where Eygptian rules which prohibited people of having sex in public as stated in the novel on chapter 11 ‘Kissing in public is illegal in Egypt, The foreigners-American archeologist and English teachers- all kissed on street corners and in alleys and on the beach and people would stop their cars to watch as though the blonde people were television starts showing themselves in public’.

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After lived for several years in Egypt, Nidali’s father would look for a job in America. Baba (Nidali’s father) had a dream that his choice to move in America is best choice to find a job. First, baba went to America alone . Nidali didn’t want to move America, she didn’t lose the home again and she didn’t want to start all over again but finally Nidali, Mama and Gamal overtake to Amerika by plane. In America, Nidali and family lived in Texas. Nidali continued her study to public high school in Texas. She should adapted to her new environment and unfamiliar norms where Television there fulled of commercial. She adapted with her new school, where in Egypt she spoken the language with the right accent meanwhile in her new school her accent when she spoke likes spoke on radio. In her new school, she got a friends, named Dimi and Camilla. Her friends were like bad girl who worn rock style that made Nidali changed her style to resemble with her new friends. Nidali also liked her classmate, named Omar Medina.

After graduated from the high school in Texas, she didn’t apply to college anywhere. Her father only allowed her to apply in local university, around Texas, but Nidali wanted applying in university of Boston. Her father disallowed her because she really loved her daughter and for him leaving home was frivolous and he didn’t want her daughter became a bad girl because her new society. But Nidali applied to university in Boston. Nidali was in contradiction of condition, she wanted to continue her study in Boston to achieve her dream but in another side, her parents didn’t permit her. Finally she ran away from home and after a while she came back to home again. She received an envelope from Boston that contained she has been accepted in college of Boston. Her mama, father, and Gamal were happy heared that good news and finally Nidali is allowed by her father and he went to Boston.

A Map of Home is a novel written by Randa Jarrar in 2008. Randa Jarrar was born in 1978 in Chicago. Jarrar was born from Egyptian mother and Palestinian father. Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and Egypt. After the Gulf War in 1991, she and her family returned to the United States, living in the New York area. Jarrar studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, received an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. She was a creative writing professor at California State University. Randa Jarrar’s work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Buzzfeed, The Utne Reader, Salon, The Offing, Guernica, The Rumpus, The Oxford American, Ploughshares, The Sun, Medium, and others. A Map of Home is her first novel that published in seven language. The novel won a Hopwood Award and Arab-American Book Award.

This paper is trying to explain a post-colonial concept that found in Randa Jarrar’s novel, A Map of Home by quoting the statements that indicate post-colonial theories then the writer describes what it means and relate to post-colonial theories.


The term of ‘Post- colonalism’ derives from two words; ‘Post’ and ‘Colonialism’. Post means after and colonialism from Roman means settlement or farmland. The term post- colonial is often used to determine the period before and after independence (colonial and postcolonial period). In general, the term colonial has been used to said pre-independence times. The term is also used to share the period after independence. Postcolonial study orients the realization of new world or country especially the relationship in the future. This theory explores the fundamental distinction between colonizer and colonized in responding the cultural development. It is also applied to dicuss the cultural character which born especially in the third world or country which colonized by colonizer after the colonialism ended.

In the post-colonial study, there are many concepts or terms which related to post- colonial study. First is Hybridity. The term of hybridity is introduced by Homi K. Bhaba. Hbyridity is a term used to refer to the interaction between different cultural forms that produce cultural formation and new identity with their own history and textual embodiment. However,in the post-colonial study, hybridity refers to cross- cultural exchange. Hybridity is not only focused on the products of culture mixing itself, but also the way these cultural products and their placement in social and historical context.

Bhaba said that hybridity is the sign of productivity of colonial power, its shifting forces and fixities: it is the name for strategic reversal of the process of domination through disavowal (that is, the production of discriminatory identities that secure the ‘pure’ and original identity of authority). Hibridity is the revolution of the assumption of colonial identity throgh the repetition of discriminatory identity effects. Thus, as Bhaba said,the encounter between Western and Eastern civilization, it is produced superiority and imperiority in which a civilization that received political and cultural support became civlization that able to defend in globalization era. The process of cultural hibridity give something different, something that new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation in meaning and representation. Hybiridity is simply defined as a new identity that is formed from two or more cultures coming together.Hybridity also shows in A Map of Home novel as stated in page 8 :

“ I noticed that all the dolls were split in half except me, even though I was split in half : I was Eyptian and Palestinian. I was Greek and American.”

Nidali was born from Palestinan father and Eyptian mother. The grandamother was Greek and she was born in Boston, America. She comes from a number of different cultures that play a role in influencing who she is. Realize that she is Eyptian, Palestinian, Greek and American so she struggles with her identity of mixing culture, so she faces challenges about who she is. For example, when she was in Texas, America. She know she is different with her friends, teacher, and her new environment which are Western, meanwhile she is from Eastern, so she adapt with her new environment to fit in.

Second, the term is mimicry. Mimicry refers to the phenomenon of people from colonial or colonized country who have education of colonial country. Mimicry reveals something in so far as it is distinct from what might be called an itself that is behind. Mimicry ermeges as the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal. Mimicry as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite (Bhabba). In a short mimicry is when one culture assimliates into another culture by copying what the colonizer culture does. It is reflected on Nidali statement as stated in page 224 :

“Well, do you know a good shop to buy exciting ensembles, you know, not too expensive?”

Nidali realizes she lives in America and she finds a new friend Dimi and Camila who has rock style. Nidali tries to identify herself by copying what the colonizer culture does. One of the culture is style. Nidali changes her clothing style and she also changes her music style in order to resemble with her friends. So, in the passage above she asked her friends to buy a new cloth to change her style. As Nidali stated :

“ Baba… Even if I went to college here, I wouldn’t want to commute from the house. Do you know why? Because I don’t want to be different. I know I am different. I know it, but I don’t want to feel like an outsider. I want to do college right, because.. it means a lot to me” (Page 288)

So Nidali knows that she is different from the other, so she doesn’t want to feel like an outsider, so she turns mimicry as a means adapting to her society. Behaviour during live in America influences her action and her decision to turn mimicry.

Third, key concept of post-colonialism is essentialism. In journal that I have read, it said that Gayatri Spivak describes essentialism in her own view, it refers to a plan that nationalities, cultural groups or marginal groups can use to present themselves. Essentialism occurs when there are two groups, one is superior, and the other one is inferior (Motamedi, Talarposhti and Pourqarib). In A Map of Home, essentialism is reflected on Nidali’s perspective as stated :

“When I thought of living in America, I pictured straw yellow hair, surfboards, snow; I saw girls and boys holding hands and breaking up and kissing in public ; I heard rock music and rap music and pop music and throngs of people swaying and singing;I tasted ketchup and mustard and mayyonaise; smelled streetsand new cars and sometimes horses and barns, dollar bills an bacon” (page 201)

Nidali deals with essentialism when she moved to America. At first, she doesn’t know how if she lives in America and what it looks like. She assumes and creates an image about America after she saw and heard on television. Through the media, America is described as a better place to live than in Egypt. She viewed America like the passage above, although she don’t know that she will live in America or not. She viewed America based on streotypical characteristic rather than realistic traits.

Forth, liminality. Liminality is a state where a person is in between two different things. It means that a person is in contradict situation. It can be seen on the pessage as stated :

“I took the map I drew to my room, flipped my pencil and brought the eraser’s tip to the page. I erased the western border, the northen border. I erased the southern and eastern border. I surveyed what remained : a blank page, save for the Galilee. I started at the whiteness of the paper’s edges for a long, long time. The whiteness of the page blended with the whiteness of my sheets. “You are here,” I thought as I looked at the page and all around me. And oddly, I felt free.”(Page 193)

In the passage above, Nidali capes with liminality multiple times particularly in discovering who she is. Nidali tries to relate herself to the map with borders because she isoften limited by the restriction that her father places on her and by the limits her religion and culture places on her. The restriction often prevent her from truly fit in her society because she cannot always do what other people do. When she erases the borders, she feels of freedom because she doesn’t have to obey something. Without limitation, Nidali actually can do whatever she wants, but in the fact, she doesn’t know what she wants know which will leave her in the liminal space.It is resemble when Nidali should leave her home, in Texas to continue her study in Boston. She is in between two different things, she leaves the home that her parents disagree at first and what she believes to achieve her dream.

Fifth, The last term or concept in postc-colonial studies is representation. Representation uses language to represent or to say something meaningful about the world meaningfully. Representation is the production of the meaning of the concepts in our mind through language (Hall). Representation term is also reflected in the passage below :

“ We put the rest of the stickers on the headbroad and I sat on my bed and stared at Wonder Woman. I loved her wavy black hair, so black it was almost blue; black like Mama’s hair, wavy like mine. I stared at the eagle on her top: it was golden and resembled the eagle on the Egyptian flag. I admired her lasso because it reminded me of the rope women in Palestine tie on buckets and round goats necks. I searched for hair on her arms but they were smooth. And when I saw the stars on her shorts, I was reminded of my blue passport, of how I was born in America. I wondered if Wonder Woman was Egyptian and Palestinian and American, like me. I looked at the stickers for hours until my eyes crossed and I started seeing small women of wonder all over the house.”(Page 24)

In the passage above, Nidali represents wonder woman stickers as her mix and her birth of place. She represents wonder woman stickers with her mixed, Egyptian and Palestine by staring the eagle on her top. She is also represents wonder woman stickers as her birth place America, when she saw the stars on her shorts. There is difference when they represent her identity. She represents wonder woman stickers based on the design . Shorts which identical to American people, meanwhile black hair which identical with Eastern people. Representation is described using wonder woman stickers to represent or to say something meaningful about the identitiy.


A Map of Home is a novel written by Randa Jarrar that narrates us about an immigrant stories who moved from several homes, from Kuwait- Egypt- Texas-Boston. She doesn’t know what the homes mean because she has lived from Eastern to Western and she should adapt with her new environment and unfamiliar forms.

And from the discussion above, it can be concluded that there are five key terms or concepts which related to Post-colonial theories of A Map of Home novel: hybridity ; mimicry; essentialism ; liminality; representation.


  1. Bhabba, Homi. ”Of Mimicry and Man : The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse’ The Location of Culture.’ Routledge (1994).
  2. Hall, Stuart. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage in association with the Open University, 1997.
  3. Motamedi, Mohammad, Abdolbaqi Rezaei Talarposhti and Behzad Pourqarib. ‘Spivakian Concepts of Essentialism and Imperialism in Gabriel Gracia’s ‘The Autumn of the Patriarch’.’ Khazar Journal of Humanities and Social Science (2017): 95-97.


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