From Publishers Weekly
College-aged Guène was raised by Algerian immigrant parents in a Parisian housing project; in her debut novel, a French bestseller, 15-year-old Doria and her illiterate mother, having been abandoned by Doria's alcoholic father, are stuck in a Paris housing project called the Paradise. Dependent on welfare and subjected to the obligatory succession of social workers, the two are determined to face forward, despite Doria's sense of doomed mektoub
(destiny), where gradual improvement (French: kiffe kiffe
) gets flattened by the same old quotidian (Arabic: kif-kif
). Doria, perpetually failing at school, begins a job babysitting a neighbor's much-adored four-year-old daughter, and Doria's mother begins literacy courses. A smart older boy, Nabil, is enlisted to tutor Doria, and she soon recognizes the potential of someone with dreams (as opposed to neighborhood teens like Hamoudi and Youssef, imprisoned for drug dealing and car theft). Throughout, the strictures of patriarchal Muslim culture clash with a nascent feminist freedom and Doria's exuberant, sophisticated teen talk. This small novel reads like a quiet celebration within a chaotic ghetto. (July)
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In the rough Paris housing projects, Doria, 15, a child of Muslim immigrant parents, sets her soap-opera dreams against the grim daily struggle, even as she does sometimes find the bold and the beautiful in herself and in her neighborhood. "It's like a film script. . . . Trouble is, our scriptwriter's got no talent. And he's never heard of happily ever after." Author Guene, 19, has grown up in the neighborhood she writes about, and her irreverent commentary never denies how hard it is. The first-person contemporary narrative, translated from the French, is touching, furious, sharp, and very funny. Since Doria's dad moved back to Morocco to marry again (he wants a son), Mom cleans hotel rooms, and Doria wants to drop out of school. The boy she loves is in trouble with drugs and loves someone else. Honest about the oppression of women and about the prejudice, both ways, Guene also shows those who break free. Much like enduring the pain of her wisdom teeth, she discovers that "it hurts to learn." Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved