Three months ago, Samira and her family fled their home in Burma to escape persecution, leaving beloved family and friends behind. Arriving in Bangladesh, they found the refugee camps full, so they are camped in a tent outside the boundaries, scavenging for food and hygiene. Samira sells hard-boiled eggs to the tourists on the nearby beach. Her father labors on shrimp boats, prohibited from entering the formal workforce. Her brother is a busboy at a restaurant. Their lives are completely changed.
Samira’s family are Rohingya. We learn more about their past and present in this verse novel. As an 11-year-old, she rebels against the limitations her father places on her. Her brother will receive an education, but Samira will not.
As Samira sells her eggs, she meets other girls and boys, many of them refugees, some of them residents. The boys surf. They are very competitive. Although Samira fears the water after their life-changing boat trip, she is drawn to surfing. Without a surf board, forbidden to take part by her father, and feeling badly for stealing time from her job, Samira learns to surf. She is motivated by a contest with a large purse. A way out of their circumstances. Through surfing, she gains a group of friends, girls who share her love of riding the waves.
The surfer girls of Bangladesh are true from life. Here’s a film to watch, Bangla Surf Girls.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel about surfing before Samira Surfs. I was fascinated by the setting, the sport, and the culture, different than my own. I appreciated the musicality of the verse novel. But more than anything this is a story of family and friendship, and I eagerly read the story of these well-written characters and the lives they are re-building together.
written by Rukhsanna Guidroz
illustrated by Fahmida Azim