The Next New Syrian Girl
Ream Shukairy. Little, Brown, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-3164-3263-4
Via gorgeously written alternating first-person POVs, debut author Shukairy interweaves the differing cultural experiences of two Syrian teenagers—one in the U.S. and one in Syria—in this powerful debut. Syrian American high school senior Khadija Shaami recognizes her privilege as an affluent member of a predominantly Syrian Muslim Detroit community. Even so, she struggles to connect with her family, especially her socialite mother, who disparages Khadija for not being a “proper Syrian girl.” Worse, happy summers in Syria with extended family stopped after the civil war, and she’s been experiencing more frequent racism surrounding her hijab at school, making boxing at a local gym her only escape. Things at home become more complicated when high school senior Leene and her mother, both Syrian refugees, come to stay. During Leene’s journey to America, she experienced devastating losses and endured myriad traumatic experiences. Though her arrival in Khadija’s home initially causes tension, the girls eventually embark on a friendship that simultaneously buoys Khadija and grounds Leene. Both teens are presented as complex and dynamic protagonists, and while their individual challenges are perceivably vastly different in scope, Shukairy portrays each with sensitivity and understanding, making for an illuminating read that interrogates themes of war, trauma, and healing. Ages 12–up. Agent: Serene Hakim, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Mar.)
Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the protagonist's name.
Reviewed on: 03/23/2023