[Nonfiction Wednesday] Bana Alabed’s “Qawia” and “Amal”

Myra here.

We are delighted to dedicate our Wednesdays to featuring nonfiction titles, as per usual. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading theme throughout the year, when we can.

This year, we hope to feature books that fit any of the following criteria:

  1. Postcolonial literature and/or [pre/post] revolutionary stories
  2. Stories by indigenous / first-nation peoples / people of colour
  3. Narratives of survival and healing, exile and migration, displacement and dispossession
  4. Books written or illustrated by people who have been colonized, oppressed, marginalized

My Name Is Bana (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written by Bana Alabed Illustrated by Nez Riaz
Published by: Salaam Reads / Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers (2021) ISBN: 1534412484 (ISBN13: 9781534412484). Borrowed via Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

The story begins with this young girl asking her mother why she is given the name Bana. Her mother explains that it is an Arabic name for a tall and strong tree.

Bana is named after a tree in the hopes that she will be “qawia” just like the tree with “light green leaves that rise to the sky.” As the story progressed, it is clear that Bana needs this strength as she and her family had to flee their home, Syria, to seek refuge and find peace. 

The conversation between mother and child as to what exactly constitutes strength is worth thinking about – as it regards strength as a virtue that one develops not just for one’s self but in the service of others: so that other people (or creatures as seen in the story) “can lean on you.” Qawia also enables one to “speak up when you see something that is wrong or unfair.” There is also the sense of amal or hope as one builds strength of character from within.

This is the first time that I am hearing of young human rights activist Bana Alabed. Reading her Afterword and everything that she had to go through at such a young age is heartbreaking. It also prompted me to seek out even more news reports about her, and I found this on Youtube. Enjoy!

#DecolonizeBookshelves2022 Update: 16 out of target 100

February 9, 2022 at 06:31AM Myra Garces-Bacsal