#WorldKidLit Wednesday: Meet Reviewer Marcia Lynx Qualey

Marcia Lynx Qualey is a Rabat, Morocco-based translator from Arabic and an all-around champion of #worldkidlit—in fact, she coined the term!

Previously based in Cairo, Marcia co-founded #WorldKidLit Month (September) with Alexandra Büchler and Lawrence Schimel in 2016, creating a platform to discuss translations into English for children—especially translations from underrepresented languages and cultures. The #WorldKidLit Month movement now features a website, Twitter account, and yes, the hashtag we riffed on to name this column.

But that’s not all.

Marcia is a one-woman promotion powerhouse for Arab literature, creator of the ArabLit website (formerly Arabic Literature in English) and ArabKidLitNow and founding editor of ArabLit Quarterly. The 2018 inaugural issue of ArabLit Quarterly brought #worldkidlit and #arablit together in an interview with Zeina Abirached, author of YA graphic novel and Batchelder Honor book A Game of Swallows, translated from Lebanese French by Edward Gauvin. Snag a copy of AQ—you’ll be glad you did!

Marcia has also contributed to Words Without Borders, The Guardian, and Book Riot, and she co-hosts the Bulaq podcast on Middle Eastern and North African literature.

That’s still not all.

Marcia is a translator! Here are two novels she has worked with, both appropriate for upper middle grade/YA.

Ghady and Rawan
By Fatima Sharafeddine and Samar Mahfouz Barraj
Translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey and Sawad Hussain
2019, University of Texas Press
ISBN: 9781477318522

Publisher’s description:

Ghady and Rawan is a heartfelt and timely novel by the award-winning author Fatima Sharafeddine (The Servant, Cappuccino) and Samar Mahfouz Barraj. The novel follows the close-knit friendship of two Lebanese teenagers, Ghady, who lives with his family in Belgium, and Rawan, who lives in Lebanon. Ghady’s family travels every summer to Beirut, where Ghady gets to spend all his time with Rawan and their other friends, enjoying their freedom from school. During the rest of the year, he and Rawan keep in touch by email. Through this correspondence, we learn about the daily ups and downs of their lives in Brussels and Beirut, including Ghady’s homesickness and his struggles with racism at school, as well as Rawan’s changing relationship to her family. The novel offers a glimpse into the lives of Lebanese adolescents while exploring a range of topics relevant to young people everywhere: bullying, parental conflicts, racism, belonging and identity, and peer pressure. Through the connection between the two main characters, Sharafeddine and Mahfouz Barraj show how the love and support of a good friend can help you through difficulties as well as sweeten life’s triumphs and good times.

Note: In this novel, Marcia Lynx Qualey translated the chapters authored by Fatima Sharafeddine (in the voice of Ghady), and Sawad Hussain translated the chapters authored by Samar Mahfouz Barraz (in the voice of Rawan).

“A heartfelt and beautifully written page-turner.” —Kirkus, Starred Review

“The sensitive translation by Hussain and Lynx Qualey conveys the highs and lows of adolescence in a language accessible to a wide range of readers.” —Michelle Hartman, McGill University 

Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands
By Sonia Nimr
Translated from the Arabic by Marcia Lynx Qualey
Forthcoming Fall 2020, Interlink Books

Description: Sonia Nimr’s award-winning Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands is a richly imagined feminist-fable-plus-historical-novel that tells an episodic travel narrative, like that of the great 14th-century Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, through the eyes of a clever and irrepressible young Palestinian woman.

The story begins hundreds of years ago, when our hero—Qamr—is born as an outcast, at the foot of a mountain in Palestine, near her father’s strange, isolated village. Qamr’s mother must solve the mystery of why only boys are born in this odd, conservative village. Then, in 1001 Nights style, this tale moves into another. Qamr’s parents die, and a prince with many wives wants to marry her. Qamr takes her favorite book, Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands, and flees through Gaza, to Egypt, where she is captured, enslaved, and sold to the sister of the mad king in Egypt. After escaping, she flees to study with a polymath in Morocco. But when it’s discovered she’s a girl, she must leave again, disguising herself as a boy becomes a pirate to sail the Mediterranean. Through all her fast-paced battles, mysteries, and adventures, Qamr never finds a home, but she does manage to create a family.

Please join me in welcoming Marcia as a #WorldKidLit Wednesday columnist. Without her, this column literally would not have its name!

I have enjoyed a year as a monthly co-columnist and am now stepping back to focus on other projects. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to review #worldkidlit in this space. Three cheers for the continuing team of Marcia, Nanette McGuinness, and Laura Taylor! Perennial thanks to GLLI founder Rachel Hildebrandt Reynolds, and to the tireless GLLI acting director Karen Van Drie. Last but not least, thanks to all who read this column and convey #worldkidlit titles to young readers.

Avery Fischer Udagawa’s translations from Japanese to English include J-Boys: Kazuo’s World, Tokyo, 1965 by Shogo Oketani, “House of Trust” by Sachiko Kashiwaba in Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction—An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories, and “Festival Time” by Ippei Mogami in The Best Asian Short Stories 2018. She is the International and Japan Translator Coordinator for SCBWI.

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