Tuesday, March 15, 2016
The Green Bicycle by Haifa Al Mansour
The Green Bicycle is a debut novel as good as any I have read in some time. The spunky young protagonist Wadjda loves to throw rocks, records the latest pop songs, wears cool sneakers and makes mixtapes which we gives to friends at school. The thing is her behavior is not that of the typical Saudi Arabian girl she is constantly at loggerheads with both her mother and her teachers at school.
Her mother works hard, often leaving very early in the morning for an hours long commute to work (I will never complain about my 45 minute slog again!) and her father works on an oil rig. Her parents are loving, doting parents but something seems to be causing a rift between them which Wajdja determines to fix.
Wajdja's life is changed when she sees a bike in a storefront one day and she schemes to get the princely sum to purchase it despite the fact that culturally it is forbidden for girls to ride bikes
Mansour gives us a glimpse into various facets of life in the kingdom such as the influx of foreign workers (something that seems to be a global phenomenon), the Muslim custom of marrying second and third wives and the tribal vestiges that still exist even in this modern country.
The overall tone of the book is very positive and I could not help but get the impression that for a young girl in the West, reading this book should be inspirational due to its hopeful tone and the fact that despite all Wadjda encounters she never loses hope and views each new day as an opportunity.
The book is an adaptation of a film that Mansour worked on so I am going to have to put this on my to-see list as well. I recommend this book for ages 10+ due to some sensitive topics discussed however.