Sumia Sukkar is a 21-year-old Muslim British writer, raised in London, of Syrian-Algerian ancestry. She studied creative writing at Kingston University. The Boy from Aleppo Who Painted the War is her debut book, and was launched at Foyles in London at the beginning of November 2013.
Interview carried out by email by Jack Little for The Ofi Press issue 36.
1. How is religion and faith important in "The Boy from Aleppo Who Painted the War"?
Religion and faith in my novel bring order to the chaos that is Syria. The characters turn to God at all times and this brings serenity into their life amid the havoc. When there is so little left and nothing to live for, it is difficult to have faith, it’s a test. So I made sure that the characters reflect the zealous people of Syria who still pray to God five times a day despite their circumstances.
2. Has the novel been received differently by readers in Syria compared to the UK?
The novel has not been marketed in Syria, as you can imagine, however, I sent it to my family in Damascus and they loved it! But then again, they are family.
3. Is your writing an important marker of your identity?
Most certainly, through my writing I speak my mind, things I agree with and things I don’t. I let the voices out onto paper. My writing is who I am. When you put your written word out there, you are letting the world take a look into your mind. A scary thought!
4. To what extent do you think that literature can "make a difference"?
Fiction raises awareness by creating well-rounded characters in a situation, bringing to life the pain and suffering. It gives the reader a chance to feel various emotions at once, and that can tamper with a person’s thoughts and opinions, hence, making a slight difference. I believe literature is a potent source of change making; it just needs to fall into the right hands and to be read wisely!
5. What projects are you working on for the future?
I plan on writing a sequel soon and have started another novel very different from ‘The Boy from Aleppo Who Painted the War’. I am also working on a short Film Script that I plan to film in the UAE.