“Maybe that’s why so many estates are mashed-up: not enough on the people on them vote. You’re not useful, politically speaking, if you don’t vote. When I’m eighteen, I’ll vote. You never get a chance to speak out round here. So when you’ve got it, grab it.”
The story behind “Just like tomorrow” is at once fascinating and intriguing. Written by Faiza Guene, the daughter of Algerian immigrants, at the age of seventeen, the novel’s potential was quickly recognised by Boris Seguin, the director of a neighbourhood cultural centre with which Faiza was involved. Seguin showed the opening chapters to his sister, an editor at a French publishing house and Faiza was offered a contract.
Since then “Kiffe Kiffe Demain” – the French title of the novel which appropriates Arabic and more traditional French – has gone on to sell 200,000 copies in France, has been translated into 26 languages and has led to Faiza’s being requested to give numerous lectures, have a monthly radio column as well as voice opinions on the Paris riots.
In spite of the considerable acclaim the novel has garnered and in spite of the insight it offers into high-rise life in the Parisian suburbs, “Just like tomorrow” does not read as a wholly convincing novel. The danger with engaging stories that surround the conception of a book is that they may eclipse the writing itself. That is true with “Just like tomorrow” and rightly so for the compassion, good-humour, warmth and intelligence that Faiza radiates in interviews is entirely deserving of celebration.
Faiza comments that; “not many people from my background, with my social and cultural origins, are represented in the media or have a voice.” It is herein that the intrinsic value of “Just like tomorrow” lies, for it does just that, offering a voice to the underrepresented, if not to the misrepresented…
The story is an account of Doria, a somewhat obstreperous fifteen-year-old, who being female, the daughter of a Moroccan Muslim, disallowed the opportunity to retake a year at school because there are two few places and admired by neeky Nabil has an understandably bleak, introspective outlook on life.
Throughout the novel Doria sees a psychiatrist and it is through these, that possibilities begin to open out for her. Faiza’s narrative offers great insight at points, it can be tender and genuinely touching and it is strength of Doria’s voice that is the real success in this, at-points-frustratingly-non-cohesive book.
“Just like tomorrow” is a book that deserves to be read, it shows great promise and it is the promise that should at once be recognised and regaled here rather than efforts to portray Guene as the Bronte of the Burbs, a difficult claim for even the most experienced writer to live up to. It is certainly to be hoped Faiza Guene continues her writing endeavours for if so, surely a bright career stretches ahead of her… Mention should be given to Sarah Adams translation which, as with the ‘Golem’ series, admirably brings the slang-uage of the suburbs verve and liveliness.
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