Title: Samira Surfs
Author: Rukhsanna Guidroz, Fahmida Azim (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Release Date: June 29, 2021
A sparkling middle-grade novel in verse about Samira, a twelve-year-old Rohingya refugee living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, who finds peace, empowerment, and sisterhood in a local surf club for girls.
Samira thinks of her life as before and after: before the burning and violence in Burma (now Myanmar), when she and her best friend would play in the fields, and after, when her family was forced to flee. There’s before the uncertain journey to Bangladesh by river, and after, when the river swallowed her nana and nani whole. And now, months after rebuilding a life in Bangladesh with her mama, baba, and brother, Khaled, there’s before Samira saw the surfer girls, and after, when she decides she’ll become one.
With Khaled’s help, Samira pushes past her fear of the water and begins secret surf lessons. She forges a friendship with the Bengali surfer girls of Cox’s Bazar and learns of a surf contest for kids that could change her life in so many ways. But as more Rohingya seek refuge in Cox’s Bazar and the dynamics of her community change, it becomes harder for Samira to keep her surfing a secret, potentially putting her family at risk.
Samira Surfs, written by Rukhsanna Guidroz and illustrated by Fahmida Azim, is an effervescent novel in verse about a young girl’s journey from isolation and persecution to sisterhood, and from fear to power as she reclaims her childhood.
Samira is a twelve-year-old Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh. Her family escaped violence in their home country of Burma (now Myanmar) and made the treacherous trip to their new home, losing Samira’s grandparents along the way. Samira has to work hard at selling eggs on the beach to help support her family. When she hears about a surf contest with a huge prize, Samira is eager to learn to surf and compete to earn money for her family. The problem is that Samira is not allowed swim or surf. Samira builds friendships with other girls who want to learn to surf as well, but she also must face discontinuation because of her religion and gender.
Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about Rohingya refugees. This was a devastating story told from the perspective of a child. Samira had to grow up quickly when her family was in danger and they had to flee their home. There was a lot of pressure put on Samira to support her family. She wasn’t allowed to go to school because she was a girl, and she had to work even harder when her dad was injured and couldn’t work. These circumstances pushed Samira to discover surfing, which ended up being a good thing for her.
Samira found hope in learning to surf. It gave her something to look forward to. She was eager to learn and improve her skills. I’ve never surfed but Samira’s experience was inspiring!
Samira Surfs is an important middle grade read!
Thank you Kokila for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Girl of the Southern Sea by Michelle Kadarusman
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Have you read Samira Surfs? What did you think of it?