Ghady and Rawan is a heartfelt and timely novel by the award-winning author Fatima Sharafeddine ( The Servant, Cappuccino ) and Samar Mahfouz Barraj. The novel follows the close-knit friendship of two Lebanese teenagers, Ghady, who lives with his family in Belgium, and Rawan, who lives in Lebanon. Ghady’s family travels every summer to Beirut, where Ghady gets to spend all his time with Rawan and their other friends, enjoying their freedom from school. During the rest of the year, he and Rawan keep in touch by email. Through this correspondence, we learn about the daily ups and downs of their lives in Brussels and Beirut, including Ghady’s homesickness and his struggles with racism at school, as well as Rawan’s changing relationship to her family. The novel offers a glimpse into the lives of Lebanese adolescents while exploring a range of topics relevant to young people everywhere: bullying, parental conflicts, racism, belonging and identity, and peer pressure. Through the connection between the two main characters, Sharafeddine and Mahfouz Barraj show how the love and support of a good friend can help you through difficulties as well as sweeten life’s triumphs and good times.
Fatima Sharafeddine was born in 1966 in Beirut, Lebanon, and spent the first six years of her childhood in Sierra Leon, in West Africa. Three years after she returned with her family to live in her native country, the Lebanese civil war started. She spent the next 15 years of her life moving between cities, houses, and schools, always trying to refuge in the safest area. In 1989, she received her B.A. in Early Childhood Education from the Lebanese American University. A year later, she got married and moved to the USA where she received a Master’s degree in Educational Theory and Practice (1993), with focus on Children’s Literature, and a Master’s degree in Modern Arabic Literature (1996), both from Ohio State University. She moved to Houston, Texas in 1996, where she worked for two years as a lead teacher with children aged 3 to 6. At a later stage, she taught Arabic Language and Culture classes at Rice University (from 1998 to 2001). In 2001, she moved with her husband and two children to Brussels, Belgium, and decided to become fully dedicated to writing for children. She currently works with three publishing houses, ASALA (Lebanon), KALIMAT (UAE), and MIJADE (Belgium). She mainly writes for children between 0 and 12 years old, but recently started writing for young adults. Over the last 6 years, she has written and published over 45 books, and translated several others from English and French into Arabic. Moreover, several of her books have been translated to various Asian and European languages (details in the bibliography). In March of 2007, she won the award of the best book of 2007 for her book “Mountain rooster” from the ‘National Committee of the Lebanese Child’, and in February 2009, her book “There is war in my city” was chosen to be on the honor list of Anna Lindh Foundation. In 2010 she was nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, for her achievements in Children’s Literature in the Arab World. Fatima is an active member of the Society for Children Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Brussels branch, where she participates in several workshops a year, as well as organizes bimonthly critique group meetings. She also attends several book fairs during the year, mainly the Frankfurt book fair, the Bologna book fair, and the Beirut International Book fair. She participates in various reading activities in Lebanon, such as the Reading Week (in spring) and the Book Festival (in summer), where she gets a chance to go to remote villages in Lebanon and read to the children in schools and public libraries. She has recently started to give workshops, in various Arab capitals, for writers who want to focus on children’s literature.
This was a nice escape from the current state of things. It's a shame my local library doesn't have more books in the "Emerging Voices from the Middle East" (I think I got that right) series, but they do have Fatima Sharafeddine's book The Servant - I'll have to check that out when the library reopens!
It took a few chapters to get into this, but the chapters are short. Ghady and Rawan are summer friends who correspond by email during the school year. The portrayal of the students and the issues they face is realistic. An enjoyable and unique read. Props to the translators. It would be nice to pair the original Arabic version to the English.
A sweet story originally written in Arabic about the friendship of two young Lebanese teens facing coming of age problems and using letters to guide each other through life. This is a great story that shows the universalism of some of life’s difficulties.
Read for the Read Harder 2021 prompt: Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada.
I don’t know why this is marketed as YA. I don’t know if it’s the author, or the translator, but it read as lower than middle grade. Short, simple sentences. Like a beginner chapter book sans pictures.
The characters are eighth graders, so I guess I’d classify it as beginning middle grade. But the subject matter, weed, bullying, racism- seems like upper middle grade. I don’t have a clue. But it’s marketed as YA, so YA it’ll be.
It was sweet. I liked that there was no romance. Just platonic love. Really sweet.
At about page 75, I found myself able to get past the writing style and enjoy it. Which... isn’t saying a lot given the book is 125 pages.
3 stars. Mostly for how sweet the kids are. Otherwise it would have been 2.
TW: bullying, drugs, racism, xenophobia, parents fighting, threat of divorce
I read this book because I wanted to learn more about Lebanon and Lebanese culture. I did learn a bit, but this book is just too corny and simplistic. It reads like a children’s book even though the characters are teenagers.
Throughout this story, I braced myself for the other shoe to drop at some point. I thought there was going to be a tragedy, an explosion, an attack. What a bad (and I stress *bad*) Western presumption on my part. It was refreshing to see the two protagonists' friendship remain a constant throughout their rough patches and for them to communicate with those around them to solve their problems. I wish there was a sequel with Ghady showing up at Rawan's birthday party. It would've been nice to see everything come full circle.
Sometimes I look for needless overcomplications or drama in a story.
I get the feeling that the translation is not the best --- then again, Arabic is a wholly different language than English so I cannot imagine the work it took to harmonize the two languages without the English version losing the original text's meaning.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.