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This memoir puts a different face on the Syrian refugee crisis. Nujeen was born with cerebral palsy and has spent her life in a wheelchair. She is a sixteen-year-old Kurdish girl and has very little formal education. She taught herself English by watching U.S. soap operas on television. In 2014 her City, Koban, was the center of fighting between ISIS and the U.S. backed Kurdish forces. They escaped to Aleppo where they lived a few years and then fled to Turkey.
Her sister Nisreen helped her and they fled to the island of Lesbos in Greece. This is where Fegal Keane of the BBC interviewed her. They traveled by ferry and bus to the Serbian/Hungarian border; they arrived as it was closed to the refugees. This is where the BBC again interviewed her. They had to then walk to Croatia and on to Germany. The sisters finally reached Germany and were reunited with brother Bland and sister Nahda. She has asked Germany for Asylum. She is attending a special school for pupils with disabilities. She states that Germany and the German people have been kind to her. She is learning German and making friends. Her parents remain in Turkey.
This is an uplifting story. Nujeen faced many dangers and met life with a positive attitude. I have great admiration for her sister Nisreen who took care of her on the trip. The memoir was written with Christine Lamb who also co-wrote “I am Malala”. The courage of both these young women is amazing. The memoir is clearly written and the details from life in Aleppo to the trek to Germany are dramatic. This is a must-read book for everyone of all ages.
Raghad Chaar does an excellent job narrating the story. Chaar is an actress and producer. She is a graduate of The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and an audiobook narrator.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I first heard of Nujeen on a radio program that interviewed her from her home in Germany. When I found this book on Audible, I snapped it up quickly.
Nujeen has some unique insights for someone so young, whose disability and culture don't often intersect in friendly ways. I found this book effectively explained why Syria is in its current state, especially how it affected everyday citizens.
In some ways Nujeen's disability defines her... because it had to. she would definitely not be the person she is without her disability. She wrote in poignant detail about feeling like a burden to her family, and yet how they supported her. She now lives in a much more disability-friendly country, with more opportunities available. She is innocent and charming in some ways, wise beyond her years in others.
And yet in other ways, she makes comments about others' disabilities that she has stated she wouldn't like having been made about her. When she watch MasterChef with a blind cook, she commented that "even blind people" can become successful cooks. In her school, there are people with other disabilities that she called "stupid" or "not as smart" or "annoying." perhaps because she's lived her entire life as the only disabled person in her community, it is hard for her to empathize. My disability is different from hers, and I've had to learn the hard way through time, age, and exposure that disability - whatever it is - does not devalue one's own life and lived experience.
The narrator was a terrific choice for this production. She matches Nujeen's voice quite well (though the narrator's is slightly lower). Her dialogue was not her strength, but this book held very little of that.
Well worth your time, money or credit.