Study Guide

A Border Passage Coming of Age

By Leila Ahmed

Coming of Age

In many ways, Ahmed's life story is a continuous coming-into-being narrative. She speaks of those crucial moments when one part of her life ends (sometimes spectacularly) and another opens out before her. She also includes less dramatic incidents—a defining moment with her mom, an epiphany about how others perceive her—that add up to greater knowledge of self and the world.

We also see Ahmed coming to terms with her past in its various forms: her personal history and the history of her country and of her family. As she writes, she acknowledges the importance of looking at the past with an experienced yet non-judgmental eye so that she can reach her ultimate goal: to see people (including herself) and events with clarity and truth.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. In what ways does Ahmed continue to have "coming-of-age" experiences throughout her life?
  2. Of the incidents that Ahmed narrates about her early life, which do you think is the most significant or defining for her? Why?
  3. Why does Ahmed remain so determined to leave Egypt to pursue her graduate studies at Cambridge?
  4. In what ways is graduate school a different experience for Ahmed from college at Cambridge? What kinds of revelations does she have there?

Chew on This

Ahmed sees her entire life journey as a learning experience, one that never seems to have an endpoint.

Ahmed finds greater significance to the ending of periods in her life than she does in the beginnings.

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