cover image Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow

Faiza Guene, , trans. from the French by Sarah Adams. . Harcourt, $13 (179pp) ISBN 978-0-15-603048-9

College-aged Guène was raised by Algerian immigrant parents in a Parisian housing project; in her debut novel, a French bestseller, 15-year-old Doria and her illiterate mother, having been abandoned by Doria's alcoholic father, are stuck in a Paris housing project called the Paradise. Dependent on welfare and subjected to the obligatory succession of social workers, the two are determined to face forward, despite Doria's sense of doomed mektoub (destiny), where gradual improvement (French: kiffe kiffe ) gets flattened by the same old quotidian (Arabic: kif-kif ). Doria, perpetually failing at school, begins a job babysitting a neighbor's much-adored four-year-old daughter, and Doria's mother begins literacy courses. A smart older boy, Nabil, is enlisted to tutor Doria, and she soon recognizes the potential of someone with dreams (as opposed to neighborhood teens like Hamoudi and Youssef, imprisoned for drug dealing and car theft). Throughout, the strictures of patriarchal Muslim culture clash with a nascent feminist freedom and Doria's exuberant, sophisticated teen talk. This small novel reads like a quiet celebration within a chaotic ghetto. (July)