Abdel-Fattah was born in Sydney, New South Wales on 6 June 1979 of Palestinian and Egyptian heritage. She grew up in Melbourne, Victoria and attended a Catholic primary school and Islamic secondary college, obtaining an International Baccalaureate. She wrote her first “novel”, based on Roald Dahl’s Matilda, when she was in sixth grade. As a teenager, she wrote short stories and produced the first draft of Does My Head Look Big in This? at about the age of 18.
Abdel-Fattah studied a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Law at the University of Melbourne. During this time, she was the Media Liaison Officer at the Islamic Council of Victoria, a role that afforded her the opportunity to write for newspapers and engage with media institutions about their representation of Muslims and Islam. She completed her PhD on Islamaphobia. Abdel-Fattah was a passionate human rights advocate and stood in the 1998 federal election as a member of the Unity Party (slogan: Say No to Pauline Hanson). She has also been deeply interested in inter-faith dialogue and has been a member of various inter-faith networks. Abdel-Fattah has also volunteered time with numerous human rights and migrant resource organisations, including: the Australian Arabic council, the Victorian Migrant Resource Centre, the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council, the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.