University professor’s novel wins the prestigious Arabic Young Adult Book Award

Professor Sonia Nimer adds one more award to an already-packed list of achievements

Dr. Sonia Nimer, a professor of philosophy and cultural studies at Birzeit University, has won the 2018 Arabic Young Adult Book Award for her young adult novel, “Thunderbird,” at the tenth Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, which was held from April 18 to April 28, 2018. 

The award was received by Renad Qubbaj, director general of the Tamer Institute for Community Education, on behalf of Nimer ( Tamer Institute is the publisher of the award-winning novel).

“I’m drawing a parallel line between Jerusalem and the thunderbird, or the phoenix, because despite facing one occupation after another, it rose again and again from the ashes. As such, the plot of the novel takes place in Jerusalem in different periods and eras,” said Nimer, explaining the name behind her novel.

In writing her novel, Nimer said she “wanted to encourage young adults to read more, seeing as they drifted away from books in general, so I’ve established a Palestinian female young adult as the main character. And, in the process, I’ve told the history of Jerusalem.” 

On winning the award, Nimer said that she hopes it will shed more light on Palestinian novels and authors, and that she was thrilled that “Palestinian books are starting to make room for themselves in the young adult genre.” 

“Thunderbird” was also nominated for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature, one of the Arab world’s biggest and most prestigious awards in children literature. 

Nimer’s works, which include 16 children’s books, have garnered attention far and wide. “Wonder Travels in Mysterious Lands,” for example, was the winner of the 2014 Etisalat Award for the Young Adult category, and her novel, “A Little Piece of Ground,” co-written with famed children’s fiction author Elizabeth Laird, has received international praise and admiration. 

She has drawn extensively from Palestinian folklore and cultural heritage in works such as “Ghaddar the Ghoul and Other Palestinian Stories,” to which she adds her special touch of humor and comedy.