Written by Fatima Sharafeddine
Publication Date May 01, 2013
Faten’s happy life in her village comes to an abrupt end when her father arranges for her to work as a servant for a wealthy Beirut family with two spoiled daughters. What does a bright, ambitious seventeen-year-old do when she is suddenly deprived of her friends, family, education and freedom? Could the mysterious, wealthy young man who lives in the next apartment building help?
When Faten finally manages to make contact with Marwan, a musician and engineering student, he helps her figure out a way to pursue her studies in secret. Even against the uncertain backdrop of the civil war, their romance develops, as the two conspire to exchange notes and meet at an idyllic seaside cafe. But in Lebanese society the differences in religion, class and wealth are stacked against them, and their parents have very different ideas about what their futures should be. When Marwan’s mother chooses a girl who will make him a suitable wife, Faten must pick up the pieces of her life and move forward. She does so, despite the odds, pursuing a job, an education and her independence.
And, in the end, it seems there may be room in her life yet for romance, and hope for a future where young people can determine their own destinies.
An engaging and lucidly written coming-of-age novel. Faten struggles to fulfill her potential in the midst of her society’s rigid expectations. She’s a nuanced, complex protagonist that any teenager can relate to — stubborn, impulsive and full of longing, but with the determination and smarts to keep her real dreams in sight.
Selected for the American Library Associations's Amelia Bloomer Project List 2014
Selected for the Notable Books for a Global Society 2014
Fatima Sharafeddine is a Lebanese writer who has twice been nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. After receiving a B.A. in Early Childhood Education, she moved from Lebanon to the United States, where she earned a master’s degree in education and another in Arabic literature. She is an active member of the Lebanese section of IBBY (LBBY) and has written more than one hundred books for children, including The Servant and The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta, also illustrated by Intelaq Mohammed Ali.
She now divides her time between Beirut and Brussels, where she writes and translates full time.
"... compelling... Fans of literary and historical fiction will be drawn to this rich portrayal of the challenges faced and opportunities forged by brave young women in patriarchal, war-torn Lebanon." Kirkus Reviews
"The contemporary story is sure to grab readers with its depiction of personal struggles behind the news images of turmoil." Booklist
"The Servant is highly engaging, encouraging readers to become personally involved in Faten’s plight, sympathetic to her injustices and eager to celebrate her triumphs, rooting for the novel’s protagonist from start to finish." CM: Canadian Review of Materials
"[Faten’s story] will draw in young readers preoccupied with society, challenging parents and their own fears." The New York Times
"This quick, straightforward, Cinderella story mirrors the plight of young girls all over the world who are forced to sacrifice their own goals to support their families. However, this modern-day fairy tale abandons the prince as the problem solver and instead features a heroine whose talent, work ethic, and ambition break the spell of servitude and poverty." School Library Journal
"This story shows that even in a war-torn country, you can still realize your dreams if you are determined." Library Media Connections