Language: English,Translator:Adams, Sarah
Publication Date: July 2006
When riots broke out in Paris in October and November of 2005, I found myself wondering, why??? What were these groups of youth upset about? What were the projects like? Who lives there? What are their living conditions? How much welfare or social assistance do these residents get? How safe is it? What does the future look like for these young men and women, and while Faiza Guene's book "Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow" about a 15-year old Moroccan girl living in an impoverished Paris suburb, does help to answer some of these questions, the book has also made me go on to ask more questions,prompting further exploration and research into the Paris ghettos - don't
you love books that do that to you?
Doria is a 15-year old Moroccan girl living with her mother in the projects in a suburb of Paris. Her father, as is fairly common among the Arab-French immigrant families living there, has left the mother to marry someone back in the village. To make ends meet, Doria's mother becomes a cleaning lady at a motel where "she flushes the toilet after rich folks, all to be paid three times zero" and where the supervisor couldn't even be bothered to learn her name (he calls all Arab women "Fatma").
Employing a narrative style which can best be described as 'stream of consiciousness', the book reads like a diary (short chapters to mimic diary entries) showing us what life is like for an isolated second -generation Arab immigrant in France thorugh the eyes of precocious Doria. With bravado, sardonic humor and a healthy dose of cyniscism and rage, she tries to maneuver her way in a world filled with social workers with an "I'm better than you" attitude, psychiatrists, unfriendly neighbors, indifferent teachers and hard-working friends.
Many reviewers have chosen to describe this book as a sweet, coming- of- age story, infact, Newsweek describes it as "a lighthearted bonbon of a book", but I disagree, there is a sharp undercurrent of anger against France's social welfare sytem that drives this book and I think the author meant for us to sit up and take notice of the situation of the immigrant youth in the suburbs of Paris...to describe it as "light-hearted" simply means to dismiss their cause. However the book also notes some of the positives of the system and fortunately the novel ends on an optimisitic note.
Faiza Guene, is the daughter of Algerian immigrants who grew up in a similar public housing project outside Paris, thus her character sketches are probably based on people she knew and interacted with everyday. Writing this novel when she was only 19 she offers us a peek into a world of hopelessness and poverty only a short ride away from the chic boutiques and sidewalk cafes of uptown Paris. The book has been translated from verlan ( the language used by Arab-French people in the projects) by Sarah Walker who has done a terrific job adapting it to urban street language found in western countries.
This book will appeal to anyone over 14 I should think. I plan on giving it to my 15-year old daughter to read, i can't wait to see how it grabs her.
Thanks to Nomadica for recommeding this book!