Christine's Reviews > Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faïza Guène
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's review
Jul 19, 10

bookshelves: ya, library-acquisitions, literary, laughter
Read in July, 2010

Guène, Faïza. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow. Orlando: A Harvest Original / Harcourt Inc., 2004.
(English translation by Sarah Adams 2006)

Subjects: realism, immigration, poverty, humour, Morocco, Paris, resourcefulness

4Q 4P M J S

The title of this coming of age book is a play on words: the Arab kif-kif or "same old, same old" played against the French slang kiffer, to love/be excited about something. This sets the tone for the novel - a clever, funny and insightful girl moves from being lost and invisible to being alive and hopeful. The summer that Doria turns 16 starts off very much kif-kif. She lives in a housing estate just outside of Paris, called the Paradise projects. It's primarily a community for North African immigrants, and is separated from the (wealthier, French) neighbouring housing complex by a concrete wall. Doria and her mother, Yasmina live there on their own since "The Beard" (aka Doria's father) went back home to Morocco after Yasmina "failed" to give him a son. It is a struggle to make ends meet, and it often seems as if Doria is bearing much of the adult responsibilities that her underpaid, illiterate mother cannot handle. They manage with donations from their neighbhours, help from Aunt Zohra and scraping by with (ugly) thrifted clothes.

While things seem to go from bad to worse - Doria and Yasmina are overlooked for community events, they are behind with their bills, Yasmina's racist boss is cheating her out of her pay, Doria is failing several classes - they manage to turn things around. Yasmina takes a city-funded course to acquire skills for a better job and to become literate, and Doria's therapist Mme Burlaud tells her that she's ready to finish up their sessions. The nerdy "lame-o" guy who is tutoring Doria even turns out to be kind of ok, cute even, by summer's end. And while Doria's grades don't improve, her prospects certainly do. One of her only friends in the housing complex, a 20-something year old former drug dealer called Hammoud, tells her that he sees a change in her, and that she no longer quips about life being the same thing day after day.

Doria manages to crack jokes about mortifying events rather than becoming undone by them. She succeeds in channelling her anger into keen and witty observations about those around her, from the local shopkeeper (at once stingy and generous) to her social worker (who cannot seem to help showing off her manicures or new marriage). Gruen, who herself grew up in housing projects outside of Paris, and is the daughter of Algerian immigrants, published Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow when she was just 19. Very engaging and intelligent but written in conversational, accessible language, this would be a great addition to any library. Very little strong language and light treatment of some serious subjects mean that this is appropriate for 13+
Overall, reviews agree and are very positive. Highly recommended.

Was reviewed in Kirkus 5/2006.

(I really should read her other books in the original French! Alissa, maybe we should form a mini-book club and read them together!)

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