Being Algerian in Paris is harder than being a Scandinavian in Britain, but there are interesting similarities between Faïza Guène’s new heroine Ahlème, and the witch. The immigration office that Ahlème has to register at regularly, sounds rather like Lunar House in Croydon, and my experience of calling there isn’t much fun. It’s for second class people.
This new book by Faïza Guène, translated by Sarah Ardizzone, is as good as her first, Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow. Dreams from the Endz isn’t as much of a teen book, though, and the publishers say they are only aiming it at adults, which is a shame. It’d be good if more teenagers could read it, and learn what it’s like to be an unwanted immigrant.
Ahlème is both a typical 24-year-old modern girl, and a good Algerian daughter and sister, keeping her invalid father happy, and trying to keep her teenage brother out of trouble. She struggles to find a job to feed them, and she meets up with her friends and helps her neighbours, and she falls in love. And even love has to depend on the immigration authorities.
Faïza is good at getting her message across, about what it’s like to be an immigrant in France. We need more books like this one, and it’s good to get a story from across the Channel. Very near, but very different.
I nearly fainted when I saw the price of Dreams from the Endz. £11.99 for a paperback of 170 pages! I understand it will sell fewer copies, because it’s foreign, not so well known, and translations may cost more. But who in their right minds will pick this book in the shop, when the average paperback costs a fiver less? The risk here must be that the book flops, and that’s seen as proof that books like these don’t sell, so why publish any more.