ArabKidLitNow recommends Taghreed Najjar’s third Young Adult novel, One Day the Sun Will Shine (ستشرق الشمس ولو بعد حين).
Awards: Shortlisted for the Etisalat Children Literature Award 2017
Author: Taghreed Najjar
Publisher: Salwa Books
Buy in Arabic: ستشرق الشمس ولو بعد حين
One Day the Sun Will Shine is a powerful YA novel about one teen’s transformation from an ebullient but naïve Damascene girl to a young woman making her way alone as she deals with outrageous loss, xenophobia, and the struggle to define herself.
This epic bildungsroman is set during the first year of the uprising in Syria that became a civil war. One Day the Sun Will Shine follows sixteen-year-old Shaden as her brother joins the conflict, her father dies of heart failure, their building is destroyed, her brother is jailed, her mother is killed by a stray bullet, and her aunt suggests marrying her off to an older man in the Gulf.
Like Dave Eggers’ What is the What, the subject matter of One Day the Sun Will Shine is often painful and grim. But the experience is lightened by Shaden’s fighting spirit as well as moments of joy and humor.
Shaden goes from being a spirited girl who relies on others to one paralyzed with grief. Later, after the shock of overhearing her aunt’s marriage plans, she finds the will to deceive her aunt and uncle, buy a boat passage from smugglers, and travel alone across the Mediterranean. She reaches an Italian refugee camp and finally gets a train to Malmo, Sweden, where she makes a new life with her paternal uncle. There, things are not “happily ever after.” Instead Shaden must face all her bottled grief while integrating into a new country.
Although there are a few novels for young readers with contemporary Syrian characters, such as Alan Gratz’s Refugee, there is none yet translated from Arabic. Moreover, Shaden is not defined by her “refugeeness,” and indeed she bristles at the word meskina or “poor dear.” She is a human being struggling to find her way through violence, loss, depression, xenophobia, patriarchy, and the fickle hearts of fellow humans. And she not only survives, but finds a way to reclaim life, and to feel the sun again.
Sample: Shaden waved at her friends on the bus and said, laughing, “See you tomorrow! Byeeee!” Then she hurried into the building, carrying her gym bag on one shoulder and her schoolbag on the other. She leapt up the stairs until she reached her house on the third floor. As she opened the apartment door, her schoolbag tipped and books started spilling out onto the floor. She quickly stuffed the books back in, slammed the door behind her with a foot, and dumped her things on the table, saying eagerly, “Mama, where are you? I have amazing news! Our team won at basketball today.”
More, and a plot summary, are available upon request.