Skip to main content

Where the Streets Had a Name


Where the Streets Had a Name

WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME opens in 2004, in Bethlehem on the West Bank, as 13-year-old Hayaat and her family prepare to leave their over-crowded house for an over-crowded grocery store. They have two hours to find and buy food and other necessities and return home.

After being uprooted from their larger home several years earlier, Hayaat, her parents, siblings and 86-year-old grandmother, Sitti Zeynab, live in a two-bedroom house in a poor neighborhood of Bethlehem. As part of their daily routine, Hayaat and her family must deal with pushing and shoving crowds, scarcity of goods, long lines, official identity papers, and military checkpoints.

Sitti, who prays and passes gas a lot, has a special influence on Hayaat. She tells stories about life before their family was forced to leave behind their Jerusalem home and possessions. After her beloved grandmother collapses and is taken to the hospital, Hayaat decides to go to Jerusalem and “climb those stone stairs, touch the hills where Sitti Zeynab and her sister danced on their wedding days.”

Hayaat, whose face is disfigured by a scar, and Samy, a classmate who has a knack for getting into trouble, are an unlikely pair. Hayaat is Muslim and Samy is Christian, yet they are best friends. They skip school and take a special journey through war-torn territory, where they see blindfolded prisoners, armed soldiers and concrete walls topped by barbed wire. During their long and perilous trip, they meet fellow travelers, including an American-Israeli couple and a young boy desperately in need of friends.

In WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME, award-winning author Randa Abdel-Fattah paints a compassionate picture of the sights, sounds, smells and sorrows of a Palestinian family whose daily lives are governed by curfews, long lines, checkpoints and travel permits. Respect for family, especially elders, and the importance of food and hospitality are common elements throughout the book, which ends on a hopeful note. In addition, the Glossary of Arabic Words enhances the understanding of the Arabic terms used throughout the novel.

WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME should appeal to middle-grade readers curious to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and gain insight into a different culture.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on November 1, 2010

Where the Streets Had a Name
by Randa Abdel-Fattah

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2010
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press
  • ISBN-10: 0545172926
  • ISBN-13: 9780545172929