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Hand Full of Stars, A
Rafik Schami, translated by Rika Lesser

published 2012 • 5 1/2" x 8 1/4" • 195 pages
ISBN 9781566568401 • paperback • $15.00

Winner of the Mildred L. Batchelder Award

Experience a wonderfully complex world of characters and cultures as you explore modern Damascus with a spirited teenage boy.

Amid the turmoil of modern Da­mascus, one teenage boy finds his political voice in a message of re­bellion that echoes throughout Syria and as far away as Western Europe. Inspired by his dearest friend, old Uncle Salim, he begins a journal to record his thoughts and impressions of family, friends, life at school, and his growing feelings for his girlfriend, Nadia. Soon the hidden diary be­comes more than just a way to re­member his daily adventures; on its pages he explores his frustration with the government injustices he witnesses. His courage and ingenuity finally find an outlet when he and his friends begin a subversive under­ground newspaper.

Warmed by a fine sense of humor, this novel is at once a moving love story and a passionate testimony to the difficult and committed actions being taken by young people around the world. This book is not only suited for teenagers, it is also quite exciting to read for adults!

Rafik Schami was born in Damascus in 1946, came to Germany in 1971 and studied chemistry in Heidelberg. Today he is the most successful German-speaking Arabic writer. His novels have been translated into 21 languages and received numerous international awards, including the Hermann Hesse Prize (1994) and the Hans Erich Nossak Prize (1997), the Mildred L. Batchelder Award (USA, 1991), the Smelik-Kiggen Prize (Netherlands, 1989), and the Prix de Lecture (France, 1996). His numerous works in German include novels, plays, stories, essays and children’s books. His bestselling novels The Dark Side of Love and The Calligrapher’s Secret received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly.

Media Reviews
“In contemporary Damascus an Arab teenager writes in his journal about himself, his family, his friends, and his love—while in the background, government terror mounts, coup follows coup, and he is drawn into secret and dangerous resistance. ‘Normal’ life comes to include panzer tanks in the street; friends are tortured, but the narrator and a few companions find the courage to write and distribute an underground newspaper. Schami (a Syrian now living in Germany) is careful not to exploit the violence... With warmth and comedy, the journal entries focus on the characters on the boy's narrow street, where ‘poverty smothers our dreams’ (his father forces him to leave school and work in his bakery), but there's a rich, vital, multicultural community. The narrator's family is Catholic, his best friend is Muslim, the barber is Armenian, the assistant comes from Persia, and the boy's beloved elderly mentor tells him stories from everywhere—history, legend, and fable—‘These stories persist, and we live in their midst.’” (Gr. 7-10)

“This unusual novel, written in the form of a diary, tells the story of four years in the life of a Damascene boy… This multifaceted work is at once a glimpse into a different culture, a plea for the right to free speech and a highly readable tale, as full of fun as it is of melancholy.” (Ages 12-up)
—Publishers Weekly

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Of Related Interest:
Abu Jmeel’s Daughter & Other Stories
Tales of Juha
Damascus Nights
Fragments of Memory
Just Like a River