A bond between two Lebanese teenagers living worlds apart
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.