Towelhead (2007) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Against the backdrop of the first Gulf War, Jasira Maroun is 13, physically well developed but naïve and unable to say no. As puberty arrives, her mother sends her from Syracuse to Houston to her curt, up-tight, Lebanese-born father. Over the next few months, Jasira must navigate her father's strict indifference, her discovery of sexual pleasure, the casual racism of a neighbor boy and her classmates, the sexual advances of the boy's father, the proffered friendship of a pregnant neighbor, and her attraction to Thomas, an African-American classmate whom her father forbids her to see. Things happen to her, but can she take responsibility and control, or is tragedy inevitable?

  • While President George Bush (Senior) has ordered an attack on Iraq during 1991, Jasira Maroun, 13, lives in Syracuse with her Caucasian mother, Gail, while her father, Rifat, born in Beirut, Lebanon, originally a follower of Islam, now a Christian, lives in Houston. When Gail's boyfriend assists Jasira in shaving her pubic area, she is sent to live with her father. She attends school and becomes the target of racial slurs. Things become worse for this pretty and naive girl, when she befriends an African-American fellow-student, Thomas, her father forbids her to see Thomas anymore, and abuses her physically, while having an affair with a Frenchwoman; their neighbor, Travis Vuoso, is attracted to her; and she herself fantasizing of becoming a porn-star while dealing with her puberty, and the fact that she may no longer be a virgin.

  • A young Arab-American girl struggles with her sexual obsession, a bigoted Army reservist and her strict father during the Gulf War.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Towelhead follows the dark, vulnerable, and shocking story of Jasira, a 13-year-old Arab-American girl, as she navigates the confusing and frightening path of adolescence and her own sexual awakening.

    When Jasira's mother sends her to Houston to live with her strict Lebanese father, she quickly learns that her new neighbors find her and her father a curiosity. In addition, her budding womanhood makes her traditional and hot-tempered father uncomfortable, confusing her more. Lonely in this new environment, Jasira seeks friendship and acceptance from her neighbors. Mr. Vuoso, an Army reservist; and Melina, a liberal expectant mother who reaches out to Jasira.

    Thrown into an unfamiliar suburban world, Jasira must confront racism and hypocrisy both at home and at school, and at the same time struggle to make sense of her raging hormones and newfound sexuality. While her boyfriend, Thomas, provides some comfort, even that relationship causes problems when her father discovers that Thomas is black. Surrounded by adults who are as lost as she, Jasira yearns for understanding, even amidst often brutal acts.

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