A bond be­tween two Le­banese teenagers liv­ing worlds apart

Arab News - - &finally - Manal Shakir Chicago

Be­tween nostal­gia and friend­ship lies Beirut, in Fa­tima Sharafed­dine and Sa­mar Mah­fouz Bar­raj’s young adult novel “Ghady and Rawan.” When the two teenage char­ac­ters are to­gether, they en­dure end­less days in the moun­tains, on the beach and with each other’s fam­i­lies, as they cre­ate bonds that with­stand time and the thou­sands of miles be­tween Le­banon and Bel­gium. Ghady lives in Brus­sels while Rawan lives in the Le­banese cap­i­tal where they spend ev­ery sum­mer to­gether, liv­ing out their ado­les­cent years un­der the sun and with one an­other.

But when the school year starts, their lives re­turn to the tri­als that come with be­ing teenagers such as bul­ly­ing, racism, peer pres­sure, fi­nan­cial strife, and seek­ing out their own iden­ti­ties.

They stay in touch through emails as life chal­lenges them in both their worlds, in Europe and in the Mid­dle East, where they must fight to stay afloat in en­vi­ron­ments that push them to their brink. Sharafed­dine and Mah­fouz Bar­raj’s novel high­lights the im­por­tance of sup­port­ive fa­mil­ial struc­tures and friend­ships that can mold an ado­les­cent’s life and char­ac­ter. Their novel touches upon dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions, ones that are not unique to any par­tic­u­lar place but re­lates to school-aged chil­dren around the world.

While Rawan and Ghady can com­pletely con­fide in one an­other in the tree­house Rawan’s fa­ther built in the moun­tains of Le­banon, when they are apart, both must face life’s strug­gles alone, as

Ghady deals with prej­u­dice and Rawan with a sit­u­a­tion at home that throws her into dis­ar­ray.

Most di­as­poric com­mu­ni­ties have faced xeno­pho­bia that leads to dis­crim­i­na­tion in some form or an­other, and in some cases, es­pe­cially in sit­u­a­tions that have to do with chil­dren, bul­ly­ing in school. The au­thors touch upon these sen­si­tive sub­jects, such as Ghady be­ing the only Arab in his school and that be­cause of his ap­pear­ance and name, he is un­rea­son­ably dis­liked. While in Rawan’s life, she must face chal­lenges that deal with so­ci­etal pres­sures and rep­utabil­ity, where the con­se­quences are out of her con­trol but di­rectly im­pact her.

For the friends to evolve into their own, they must some­times wan­der into un­charted ter­ri­tory but con­tinue to keep in touch whether through email or in per­son.

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