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Young Author: Nujeen – One Girl’s Incredible Journey from War-torn Syria in a Wheelchair


by Prerna Raturi
No one should have a coming-of-age story like hers. And although it’s also an adventurous journey full of nail-biting moments, you wouldn’t wish a “road trip” experience like that on anyone. But Nujeen Mustafa does it, flees from war-torn Syria, travels all the way to Germany on a wheelchair, and lives to tell the tale. Not only that, she tells the tale like it is — sharing her fears and insecurities, reporting the events as they unfold before her in Aleppo and Manib, crossing the Mediterranean and finally getting to attend school in Cologne — without letting any kind of cynicism set in.

Nujeen – One girl’s incredible journey from war-torn Syria in a wheelchair by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb is an account citizens of the world must read. That is because the book gives a face to the global emergency, as a mass migration of asylum seekers from western and south Asia, Africa and the Western Balkans continues to reach European shores. You witness the harrowing journey millions of people took from their homelands, uprooting themselves from their traditional roots, running for their lives on foot; at the mercy of local people’s kindness; on dinghies that sank killing hundreds of men, women, and children; and ending up at borders that were often closed to them. In that sense, Nujeen’s 3,593-mile journey from Syria to Turkey, Greece, and on to Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and finally to Germany, is a leaf out of a child refugee’s life, dealing with smugglers and governments that don’t want you, as well as some very kind strangers.

At the same time, the book is as much about a teenager getting her fix of soap operas, wrangling “disability benefits” from friends and family since she suffered from a condition called tetraspasticity”, having big dreams about her future, and views on everything from marriage to politics, to learning English from TV shows. The book marvellously weaves in the dark, unsure days of bombings in Syria and Daesh (Nujeen refuses to call it the Islamic State) infiltration. “…Nasrine could see the bombs landing right by our house. She was terrified. Finally the planes flew away. When the power came back, I turned up the TV and watched a Turkish drama series called Samar while Ayee got a broom and swept up the broken glass and rubble.”

In Cologne, settling down in a world where she didn’t have to fear bombs but is still a little unsure of, what with some voices rising against immigrants, Nujeen is finally growing up.

She’s learning to live with the fact that not all people are welcoming and not all people hate others, she’s accepting how she may not become an astronaut and is finally confronting her disability and learning to be independent. She is learning to accept herself as she is. Like any other teenager. (DNAIndia.com)

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