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The Girl Who Fell to Earth: A Memoir

If two parents can't stay together because their worlds are impossibly different, what does that mean for their child, who carries those two divergent worlds in her veins? Sophia Al-Maria, a Qatari-American artist, filmmaker and writer, struggled for years to forge a self-identity that felt like her own. In The Girl Who Fell to Earth, a lovely and searching memoir that reads like a novel, Al-Maria recounts the doomed but briefly charmed marriage that created her, the pull of two cultures that will neither fully embrace her nor let her go and the often surprising choices she made that brought her to peace with herself.

Al-Maria digs deep to paint a rich and convincing portrait of her parents, a Bedouin from Qatar and a free-wheeling, overall-clad girl from Puyallup, Wash. When the couple and their two young children move to Qatar, Al-Maria's father guilelessly takes a second wife. The chasm between the cultures becomes uncrossable; so begins Al-Maria's life in two separate countries. In intimate, clear-eyed prose, she describes trying out adolescence in both places, only to find no place where she authentically belongs.

Though the East-West, star-crossed lover story has been told many times, Al-Maria's perspective feels fresh and her path is unexpected. Even though Al-Maria's realization of her place in the universe comes under the clichéd setting of a moonlit desert night and the underlying philosophy is basically "it is what it is," she shares herself and her singular story so meaningfully that the rather mundane revelation has the ring of greatest truth. --Cherie Ann Parker, freelance journalist and book critic