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Towelhead : a novel
Alicia Erian
Adult Fiction

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Erian (The Brutal Language of Love) takes a dogged, unflinching look at what happens as a young woman's sexuality blooms when only a predatory neighbor is paying attention. After 13-year-old Jasira is sent to live with her father in Houston ("I didn't want to live with Daddy. He had a weird accent and came from Lebanon"), she finds herself coming of age in the shadow of his old world, authoritarian ideas, which include a ban on tampons (they're for married women, he insists) and a friendship with a boy who's black. Trapped between her father's rigidity and a wider culture that seems without rules, Jasira is left to handle puberty on her own, as well as her budding sexual desire and an ongoing longing for love and acceptance. Her creepy neighbor, Mr. Vuoso, senses her desires, and she responds eagerly to his sexual overtures. His willingness to eroticize her is heightened by how exotic-as well as distasteful-he finds her, a half-Middle Eastern child living in America on the eve of the first Gulf War. He hires Jasira to baby-sit for his son, and it's clear that their relationship will destroy them. The writing is not subtle-indeed, it can be quite clunky-but as a meditation on race, adolescence and alienation, the novel has moments of power. Agent, Peter Steinberg. Author tour; film rights to Alan Ball (Six Feet Under). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Forced to leave home in upstate New York when her mother's boyfriend gets a little too chummy, 13-year-old Jasira ends up living with her Lebanese-born father in Texas. There she must adjust to her father's restrictive code of conduct, get used to a new neighborhood and school, and survive the anti-Arab climate that prevailed during the first Gulf War. More rejected than loved by her parents, Jasira is a confused little girl with a grown-up body who finds herself craving the inappropriate attention of other adults, even as a motherly neighbor keeps a protective eye on her. The sexual abuse of children is a delicate theme to handle-how do you write about it without actually contributing to such exploitation? In her first novel, Erian (The Brutal Language of Love: Stories) solves the problem by having Jasira narrate her own story, so that readers come to understand her desperate need for affection, overwhelming sense of guilt, and confusion over the difference between what her head and her body tell her. The result, if not exquisitely written, is both poignant and engaging. Recommended especially for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/04.]-Rebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Jasira
Age: 13
Parents are divorced; lives with her father who is a strict Arab; confused about her hormones and the changes her body is going through.

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