Book review: Nujeen by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb


Nujeen by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb (first published in 2016 by Harper Wave)

She is a true testament of what it means to persevere. 

Nujeen Mustafa is a young Syrian girl confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy. She spends her days watching her favourite show Days of Our Lives, and has even managed to teach herself English this way.

This English (however broken) comes very much in handy later as Nujeen documents her incredible journey from Aleppo to Gaziantep (a refugee safe haven in Turkey) to Greece and beyond. 

She sits in her family’s apartment in Aleppo and dreams and wonders like most young kids would. Only difference is she is unable to walk. 

She charmingly says that she has certain “disability privileges” that get her whatever she desires and her family even lovingly calls her “Queen Nujeen” because of this. From the very onset of the war in Syria to now, Nujeen shows us the war through her eyes.

The eyes of a child gives us insight into the Assad dictatorship, the conditions and cruelty of war and her everyday family life despite the unimaginably harsh conditions and the fear that consumes their daily lives. 

Being Kurdish, she and her family were also treated like outcasts in their own country. But this book above all blatantly confronts us with the question of ‘What is a refugee?’ 

‘Most of us do not know the feeling of complete exhaustion combined with fear’, said German chancellor Angela Merkel in response to the colossal refugee crisis experienced in the last few years. 

She urged the German people to be open to the massive influx of Syrian refugees. Exhaustion and fear, perhaps the two most accurate words to describe the experience relayed by Nujeen in this book, are two primal human states. States we can all experience, but both at once are particularly prevalent in cases when humans are fighting for their lives.

Now combine this with losing everything – not just things, but your home, your friends and family members. It is almost unimaginable for most. 

Nujeen shows us what it means to persevere in the utmost of unforgiving circumstances and that a refugee is not just that, no refugee is just a number. It also shows that becoming a refugee can truly happen to anyone.  


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