Future Voices: A Chat with Syrian children’s author Nadine Kaadan

The Writers' Centre Norwich.

The Writers' Centre Norwich. - Credit: Archant

Nadine Kaadan, a Syrian author-illustrator of children's books, recently visited the Norwich Writers' Centre. With a kind smile, and a purple flower tucked behind one ear ('a gift from a fan'), Kaadan is every bit as animated as her books suggest.

Her playful watercolour illustrations ('it's just so poetic to work with', she says of her favourite medium) are linked with a desire to represent the identities of children in her motherland, Damascus.

As I flip through The Jasmine Sneeze, her latest story, the beautifully Syrian visual landscape is apparent alongside her titular cat's adventures.

The intricate tiles flowing from her paintbrush are ubiquitous in Damascus – 'an important part of the culture', she notes – and the story itself drips with cultural colour. She spoke fervently on why she reinterpreted a folk tale in The Jasmine Sneeze.

'Stories that are in between reality and legends, about the relationship between the people and the jasmine, are irresistible to kids because they combine myths with what is known,' she said.

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Kaadan's ambition to see her culture represented had poignant beginnings in her own childhood. 'I'd never read about our way of losing a tooth', she remembers.

(Losing a tooth in Damascus is celebrated by throwing it into the garden- a practice quite more natural than receiving money!)

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Looking back on the lack of cultural diversity in my own childhood favourites, I am struck with an appreciation for Nadine's work. As a person of mixed cultural background, I smiled at the thought of children seeing themselves in her books.

Nadine concludes our interview with some simple advice: 'Follow your passion. Just keep exploring it and researching it, and then you'll find yourself publishing books about it!'

And I couldn't agree more.

Liliana Potter, 16, Wymondham

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