cover image Tomboy


Nina Bouraoui, Author, Marjorie Attignol Salvodon, Translator, Jehanne-Marie Gavarini, Translator , trans. from the French by Marjorie Attignol Salvodon and Jehanne-Marie Gavarin Univ. of Nebraska $40 (116p) ISBN 978-0-8032-6259-1

French Algerian novelist Bouraoui explores growing up torn between two identities in this spare, emotionally arduous narrative. The daughter of a blonde, blue-eyed French mother and a well-educated Algerian father, young narrator Nina is deeply conflicted about her identity. She shields herself from the Arab dictates of women's behavior by becoming a tomboy with short hair, a mannish swagger and a boy's nickname; she is devoted to a boy of similar mixed identity named Amine with whom she navigates the violence of newly independent Algeria during the 1970s. The underlying menaces of disenfranchisement and racism torment their childhoods, until the two friends are separated. In the novel's second half, Nina spends summers at her grandparents' house in Rennes, where she must assume a new identity as a French girl while being constantly reminded that she is a foreigner. Bouraoui's quiet and inwardly focused coming-of-age novel delves deeply into intimate questions of self-definition—and ultimately the urge to become a writer. (Dec.)