By Alicia Erian
Simon & Schuster, Paperback, 9781416589303, 336pp.
Publication Date: July 15, 2008
List Price: $12.00*
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The year is 1991. When Jasira's mother finds out what has been going on between her boyfriend and her thirteen-year-old daughter, she has to make a choice -- and chooses to send Jasira off to Houston Texas, to live with her father. A remote disciplinarian prone to explosive rages, Jasira's father is unable to show his daughter the love she craves -- and far less able to handle her feelings about her changing body.
Bewildered by extremes of parental scrutiny and neglect, Jasira begins to look elsewhere for affection. Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait, and high school has become a lonely place for a "towelhead." When her father meets, and forbids her to see, her boyfriend, it becomes lonelier still. But there is always Mr. Vuoso -- a neighboring army reservist whose son Jasira babysits. Mr. Vuoso, as Jasira discovers, has an extensive collection of Playboy magazines. And he doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong with Jasira's body at all.
Painfully funny, tender, and sexually charged, Towelhead is that rare thing: a gloriously readable novel unafraid to take risks. The story of a girl failed by her parents and by a conflicted America, Towelhead is an ultimately redemptive and moving work that none of us can afford to ignore.
"Alicia Erian is one of the finest young writers to come along in a decade -- fierce, smart, funny, and wise. And Towelhead is an extraordinary debut novel. It's sexy, disturbing, joyful and deep, and maybe just a little too real for comfort."
-- Bill Roorbach, author of Big Bend and The Smallest Color
"Alicia Erian's gripping debut novel fearlessly enters love's gray areas and darkest corners. The character's voice casts a slow and subtle spell. Before you know it, you're convinced the bad guys are good guys and the heroes are villains. I couldn't put it down."
-- Cathy Day, author of The Circus in Winter
"Alicia Erian's unflinching depiction of a teen's survival is accurate and artful, and it offers a glimpse of true triumph. This marvelous book further confirms Erian as a writer to admire."
-- Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy
"In Towelhead Alicia Erian accomplishes an extraordinarily difficult thing: She illuminates a timeless, ageless theme, our inevitable human struggle for selfhood and meaningful connection to others. This is a brilliant first novel."
-- Robert Olen Butler