This is the coming-of-age story of Jamal Smith, who is a young Muslim living in Western Sydney where he lives with his aunt and his extended family. He has an estranged father, and an abusive mother who is in and out of his life. Jamal tries to connect with his faith, his family, and his community but he knows he is different, and he tries to come to terms not only with his sexuality but also with the family history that is largely unknown to him.
I found the storytelling quite engaging in the first part of the book, but taken as whole, I felt the book was lacklustre. To me there weren’t enough highs and lows in the narrative, and I felt I needed more details about other characters and their place in Jamal’s life. Readings commented that “This is a marvellous book that will speak to many people from different marginalised communities directly, but in showing us a common humanity, Sakr’s impressive novel also gives many other readers an insight into experiences unfamiliar to them.“
Author: Omar Sakr
“… Jamal struggled to regather the torn threads of his family story. He pictured his mother, a little girl taken from Lebanon to Australia, forced to grow up in the shadow of prison, and suddenly her fractured fury made more sense to him.”
“They were all dropouts doing odd jobs or on Centrelink, and increasingly, they looked at him like a future lifeline.”
“Jamal stared, appalled. The Smiths were a family of unspoken secrets, of the-walls-are-listening sign language: direct speech was abhorred, a profound thing that had to be earned, and which you were never meant to actually earn, at least not while the adults were alive. They wanted to keep their shames secret, as proper.”