Sirocco, by Danielle A. Dahl
Sirocco: A French Girl Comes of Age in War-Torn Algeria (274 pages), is a memoir by Danielle A. Dahl about her adventures growing up under threat of terrorism.
Sirocco is a finalist in two categories of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards: Memoirs (Historical/Legacy/Career) and Historical Nonfiction.
“Sirocco is the riveting account of the author’s youth during the Algerian War for Independence (1954-1962), and it is the first English-language novel from the Pied-Noir community. Dahl paints a loving and nostalgic image of Algeria but does not spare the reader from the confusion, chaos, and violence of war. The beauty of the text comes from the gradual shift in perspective from child to young adult as Nana begins to understand the complexity of the conflict in Constantine. Her cohesive story is smattered with French and Pied-Noir expressions, authentic scenes, and vivid descriptions of the characters in her life. She transports us to a traumatic period that has long been silenced in France and that has only begun to be uncovered in the last decade.”
—Amy L. Hubbell, Lecturer in French, The University of Queensland
“With brilliant storytelling, we are drawn into the world of a French-Algerian family during the civil war. Lush language and skillful rendering of this world create a story you won’t be able to put down. Dahl’s memoir Sirocco teaches us about another culture and the history of a time and a place—and most of all, you will meet a family you will never forget.”
—Linda Joy Myers, author of Power of Memoir and Don’t Call Me Mother
“Mesmerizing. Poignant. Bittersweet. Richly evocative writing that places you deep in the world of war-torn Algeria. A stunning debut author to watch.”
—Mary Buckham, USA Today bestselling author
On All Saints Day, 1954, the Algerian War of Independence from France begins, forever changing the lives of ten-year-old Nanna, her family, and a million-and-a-half French settlers.
As Arab rebels carry out terrorist acts against civilians, hatred and bloodshed permeate the fabric of European and Muslim lives. A safe bus ride to town means keeping an eye out for stray shopping baskets containing hidden bombs. A day trip to the beach requires the protection of a military convoy.
But life goes on, and Nanna’s loving mother, mischievous but good-natured siblings, and kind grandfathers provide plenty of adventure and humor. Nanna worships her Papa, who provides for his family and keeps them safe, but, growing up, she begins to understand that he is also a braggart with unyielding views of right and wrong, who believes that attending a supervised party with boys will compromise a girl’s virtue. Nanna defies him and falls in love, thus setting the stage for an ongoing clash of wills.
As Nanna watches her beloved country torn apart by terrorism, she grieves for the French targeted by the fellagha and for the Arabs they slaughter because they are seen as pro-French. Ultimately, Nanna watches in anguish as the French generals, betrayed by De Gaulle, make a last stand for a French Algeria before laying down their arms.
In the end Nanna’s family, like all the other French settlers, must choose between the suitcase and the grave.
Says the author, “Five years ago, I began to write down funny stories from the years my family lived in the North African country of Algeria. Childhood reminiscences, which, in time, unleashed a flow of memories shared, I know, by each and every one of the French colonials who also survived these times—a Pandora’s Box bursting with the brutal events of the war of independence, occasionally brimming with bitterness, but also overflowing with unconditional love for a sensuous land and its unassuming people. An upbringing such as mine is a lesson in emotional survival. Such is the human spirit that it yearns to find a new ‘normal,’ even amid constant danger.”
Danielle A. Dahl hails from a family of fourth generation French settlers in Algeria. Born and raised in Constantine, she came of age during the Algerian War of Independence. A week before Algeria celebrated self-rule and just before Danielle turned eighteen, she and her family fled their home and took refuge in France. Eight years later, she moved to the United States, where she studied commercial art. She and her husband Walter lived in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, and Illinois before retiring to South Carolina. Danielle has placed in several writing contests and published two creative nonfiction stories in the Petigru Review Literary Journal. Click here to find Danielle on the Web.
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