mother had given the young woman her first name, but for her new life Fatima
chose the last, a French word meaning to hope. She taught herself the language
from schoolbooks that somehow escaped burning—English too. (2.5)
While names aren't a big deal for anyone else,
Fatima's is <em>super </em>significant.
It tells us about her resilient personality, and how she continues to hope
regardless of the obstacles in her way. It also shows us the fact that she's a
language wizard, nailing three languages and counting.
explosion tore the girl apart but didn't kill her instantly. Jimmi got to her
on her third to last breath. As she died she asked him something in a language
he didn't understand. The wounded man next to her coughed up, "She said, 'I
know I am going into a coffin, but where will my face live?'" (4.5)
Jimmi's encounter with the little girl and the
bomb is confusing enough without a foreign language in the mix to boot. It's
significant that Jimmi needs someone to translate for him, because he doesn't
understand <em>anything </em>about
his current situation or how this could happen.
sighed. He turned from Jimmi to Fatima and sized her up with suspicious eyes. "Any
teaching experience?" Back in the refugee camp Fatima taught English to
the younger girls. She lived to teach. She nodded. (5.41)
Fatima is used to teaching kids different
languages, and that's what she really enjoys. Her knowledge of different
languages highlights her open-minded nature and her ability to learn about
different cultures quickly.
shelter in the near silence, Mik looked back at the papergirl. She was waving.
No, she was signing, HELLO, GOOD-BYE, I LOVE YOU. (6.59)
Of all the sayings that Fatima
could learn in sign language, this is the one that she knows. It's also the
phrase that she writes to her sister in her letter. This is meaningful because
it shows us how close she is to her sister, as well as how close Mik becomes to
nodded. She wanted to ask the girl how she knew sign, but that would require a
whachamacallit, conversation. "Nice day," she said and signed as she
hurried away. (9.20)
The fact that Fatima uses sign
language to communicate with Fatima is special to Mik. People don't know Mik's
language, and it's Fatima's knowledge of sign language that draws Mik to her in
the first place.
deafened some of the children back home," Fatima said as she and Mik
walked the back way along the tracks. "My sister and I watched the woman
from the UN teach them sign, but only for one day before a raid split the
camps. Perhaps someday when the fighting ends I will return home. For now I am
so lucky to live in these beautiful United States." (9.37)
As Mik learns about Fatima's future, it comes as no
surprise that it's tied up in language. Fatima yearns to know more about people
and doesn't rely on her own language to get her through.
fear, little one. My door is always open to you. How would I say this in sign?"
want to know?"
when I return to my country. To teach the children. Show me."
her. Fatima was a quick study. (13.14-17)
Foreshadowingalert: Fatima thinks she'll use her sign language to teach kids from her home
country, but we're thinking she plans on returning under slightly different
circumstance than she winds up finding herself in. Her insistence on learning a
new language shows us that she still thinks about the kids in her hometown,
even when she's far away from them, though, and that she wants to give them
exciting new opportunities through language.
While Mik was
in the bathroom Fatima studied a free Spanish paper. Articles were translated
into English on the opposite page. Fatima taught herself the language as she
hunted for news from the east. (26.2)
Add another language to Fatima's resume because there's
just no stopping this girl. We can't help but wonder why she learns so many
different languages instead of mastering one. Perhaps it's so she can soak up
as much knowledge as she can—or maybe it's to be as diverse as possible.
With the sign
my sister Mik taught me, they will ask me to lead a new school. There are many
who will be eager to know what I have learned here. This is a remarkable
opportunity for me. I will send you many letters and tell you of my progress.
It's a small comfort to Mik that Fatima will get to
use her new sign language skills when she gets back home. Fatima taught Mik a
lot about friendship and being herself, and Mik taught Fatima about another
call the ambulance." Mom put the phone to her ear. "How that Jimmi
does go on and on."
Mik said. "Will you listen to him?" (45.30)
The final words of the book are a question. (For
more on this, check out the "What's Up With the Ending?" section.)
They allow us to make up our own ending to the novel, but they also highlight
how important all language is to the characters. Mik wants her mom to take
Jimmi seriously and listen to the guy instead of just writing him off. The
question is: Does she?