cover image Samira Surfs

Samira Surfs

Rukhsanna Guidroz, illus. by Fahmida Azim. Kokila, $17.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-984816-19-1

In 2012, Samira, 11, grows up in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a town ravaged by climate change, with her parents and brother, Khaled, all of whom are unregistered Rohingya refugees after fleeing Burma by boat. Struggling to make ends meet, Samira’s father fishes for shrimp, her brother buses tables at Seaview Hotel, and Samira sells eggs to tourists on the beach, hoping to earn enough to purchase salt for her family. Scarred by the loss of her grandparents during the boat trip from Burma, Samira steers clear of water. She yearns to attend school, but both a lack of funds and her father’s sexism prevent that. When Khaled learns to surf, Samira is initially ambivalent, still wishing she could learn English and Chittagonian like him instead. Until, that is, her friends and fellow beach merchants also begin to surf, discovering a secret pleasure in a community where even swimming is considered taboo for girls and women. With immersive b&w illustrations by Azim, the novel-in-verse stays riveting throughout, as Guidroz (Mina vs. the Monsoon) deftly employs sensory diction and spare poetic touches (“Did you know eyes can be spiky?”) to center Samira’s richly told story. Back matter includes an author’s note and further reading. Ages 8–12. Agent: Wendi Gu, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (June)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the author's last name.