Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah

Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abudullah's The Sandwich Swap tells the story of a friendship between Lily and Salma. The two are inseparable - playing together, laughing together, and sticky by each other's side, just as best friends usually do. It isn't until a lunch time incidient, in which Lily, eating her peanut butter sandwich, tells Salma that her pita and hummus sandwich basically looks gross. And so Salma returns the same opinion, claiming that Lily's peanut butter and jelly sandwich looks gross to her. One thing leads to another, and Lily and Salma continue to insult one another, not only criticizing their lunch options, but making comments about they way they look and they way they dress.

Students surrounding them take either Lily or Salma's side, resulting in a full-fledge food fight in the cafeteria. Once called to the principal's office, the girls finally wake up and realize that what they've done is completely wrong. They are ashamed of their behavior and how they could let this get in the way of their friendship.

The next day, Lily and Salma sample each other sandwiches. While their initial exchanges of the opposing sandwich was "gross" or "yucky," after sampling one another's they realized that they tasted pretty good - even DELICIOUS! The two friends return to the principal's office, this time with a full-bleed illustration of a buffet filled with various foods, with adorning flags depicting the coming together of some of our world's diverse ethnicities - some of these include Iceland, Greece, Mexico, United States, Jordan, etc).

In an author's note, Queen Rania explains that the book is inspired from a moment in her own chidhood. In an interview with Oprah, she states,

  • QR: "I went to an international school, and I used to go every day, and at lunchtime I would proudly open my lunchbox and find my hoummous sandwich which my mother made me every day with lots of love, and you know, there's a dependable, tasty texture. So I unpack my sandwich and I see a girl sitting next to me and she's eating something horrible. It was just this gooey, pasty..."

  • Oprah: "brown stuff..."

  • QR: "...brown, purply stuff. And I really felt sorry for her. And then I thought that poor girl she doesn't have my delicious hoummous sandwich. So one day she offered me to take a bite and I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I kind of scrunched up my face, closed my eyes, and took a bite. And then I wanted to take another bite just to make sure I liked it. And then another, and that's when my love affair with peanut buttter started."

  • Oprah: "Peanut Butter and Jelly."

  • QR: "You know I was five years old so it's not like I drew any conscious lessons, but on a subconcious level I think I understood that I shouldn't fear the unknown. That I shouldn't judge something without trying it. That wonderful things can be found in even the strangest of places, and from that time onwards I stopped second guessing diversity but started embracing it. You know differences became part of the turf, adding texture and colour to one's life." (www.queenraniajo/media/interviews)
It is fascinating to find an author's childhood experiences come out in their stories. The theme of cultural tolerance and appreciation of diversity was the lesson that Queen Rania learned as a young girl growing up. Even though the story between Lily and Salma seemed to simple, it was more than just their sandwiches looking gross to one another; it was the hesitation in trying something different, while the sandwiches represented an underlying message to readers on what can happen when you open up your mind and heart to something unknown. You may surprise yourself with what you discover.

No comments:

Post a Comment