In the opening pages of this German fictional novel, we encounter Talitha, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee who, it transpires, is at risk of being deported. In order to stay, she has to tell her story. Written in the first-person, it is an account of her journey and how she has become separated from the rest of her family during her journey. Her father was left behind at a border relatively early on in their journey, her mother and younger brother end up registering in Austria as her brother has fallen ill. Talitha continues on to Germany alone.
As she registers for asylum in Germany, she registers with a false date of birth, believing that her passage will be easier if she is 18. She quickly realises her error and then has to try and prove her status as a minor. With her mother registered for asylum in Austria, and her own registration having taken place in Germany, EU law will not allow either party to cross the border until their applications are complete. Talitha is completely alone.
After living for some time in a hostel, she is taken in by a friend’s family; however the family’s son is anti-refugee and frames Talitha for a fire at the family farm. Talitha faces a choice whether to destroy her friend’s family by telling the truth of who actually set the fire, or whether to take the rap for it and face deportation. In the end she chooses to flee the family home, leaving her testimony in an envelope that she slides underneath the son’s bedroom door as she leaves.
I love the title of this book – the jasmine representing her past while the apple blossoms represent her future. One of the things I particularly like about this book is how it takes specific factual events and focuses on the effect this event has on the refugees living in Germany. A terrorist attack takes place in France and the refugees in Germany feel the backlash. It also suggests the idea of ignorance as a key factor for xenophobia and fear. As the son becomes more informed about Talitha’s background and experiences, he becomes more sympathetic to her cause.
This would be another great addition for our English book shelves!
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