Fatima Sharafeddine on ‘Throwing Aside Self-censorship’ When Writing YA Novel ‘Cappuccino’

The topics for my first two YA novels were ones in which I was very emotionally entangled and were written when the wounds from them were still quite raw; Ghadi and Rawan is based to some extent on my son’s experiences at school and Faten touched on the issue of underage domestic labor that I felt very strongly about. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrWhatsAppPinterestTelegramPocketSkypeLike this:Like Loading…‹ Read an Excerpt from Badriya Albeshr’s ‘Thursdays Visitors,’ Newly Banned in SaudiCategories: children's, YA YM: You do know that your depiction of a battered women’s NGO as a positive place for victims to turn to is controversial, right? I began to build characters and set up chapters, writing notes on what I hoped to achieve in each chapter. YM: Others in the industry hold you up as an example of prolific and disciplined writing (mashAllah!). Earlier this week, prolific Lebanese author   Fatima Sharafeddine won the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature for best book in the YA category, for her novel Cappuccino:
At the Sharjah International Book Fair, where the award is announced each year, Sharafeddine sat down to talk to one of this year’s jurors, Yasmine Motawy. I also spoke to a lawyer for battered women, who introduced me to battered women, a psychologist, and those working at the Lebanese NGO KAFA, which works to eliminate violence and exploitation, particularly against women. I wrote and let the book be what it was shaping up to be, if it was going to be a YA book, so be it, if it was going to be an adult novel, then that is what it was destined to be. FS:   I felt I was ‘crafting’ the book more, I played more with language, I was not afraid to use a difficult word in the midst of an accessible paragraph. I did not personally know any battered women when I started writing Cappuccino, but I was disturbed by the reports of domestic violence in Lebanon, and planned my fictional take on the subject quite methodically. Yasmine Motawy is a children’s-literature scholar, a translator, and an instructor at the American University in Cairo. YM: How did your writing process improve the outcome of Cappuccino? It is easy to change a sequence. I give workshops for children and writers and have a pile of well-worn books on the craft of writing that I return to daily. YM: I was told by a YA fan of yours that, “Fatima Sharafeddine is getting better with each book; Cappuccino (2016) is better than Ghadi and Rawan (2013), which is better than Faten (2010).” What do you think of this? She is also part of the Egyptian Board on Books for Young People (EBBY). FS:   (laughs) Even when I am not writing, I am reading about writing. They were written in passionate bursts, unlike the careful construction of Cappuccino. Yasmine Motawy: What was your writing process when you wrote Cappuccino? I threw aside the self-censorship that comes from excessive concerns about the reader’s age. Fatima Sharafeddine:   This is perhaps the book I most systematically approached. I try things out, I change them, I modify workshops, I play with ideas, but every day I am thinking about writing. When I go back to my earlier works, I feel that there are parts that sound a little naive, and I feel that I may have been too direct sometimes. When I got the idea for it, I collected data, I researched, and I spoke to people. FS:   I think that is a very interesting and astute comment that I agree with! In general, when I start writing, the writing takes me to places where the character needs me, and this was no different; the characters’ reactions to situations allowed me to get to know them better, and I would then go back to page 5 from page 50 and change things accordingly. Also:   Read Hend Saeed’s review of Cappuccino. Do you write every day? I believe that these places can be a beacon of hope for many, especially when the family is unavailable or unsupportive. FS:   Yes, I do, and I am not saying that all participants in civil society are effective and well-intentioned, but that the one I visited in particular had a very human face and did excellent work in providing these women with counsel and care. Yasmine Motawy and Fatima Sharafeddine. On Monday,   Yasmine Motawy brings us highlights from the judges’ post-prize discussion at the 2017 Sharjah International Book Fair.