The Eight-Year-Old Harry Potter Fan Who Live-Tweeted the Syrian War Has a New Book
It was less than one year ago that Bana Alabed sent out a desperate tweet from her home in Aleppo, Syria. “This is my last moment to either live or die.”
My name is Bana, I'm 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. – Bana
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 13, 2016
The then seven-year-old had been live-tweeting for months from inside Syria, during some of the worst fighting of the Syrian civil war. Her account (run with her mom’s help) went viral in November 2016, when J.K. Rowling found out that Bana is a big Harry Potter fan and sent her e-book versions of the series. From then on, millions of people tuned in for Bana’s daily updates on life inside Syria.
Thankfully, Bana and her family survived the violence and were evacuated to Turkey late last year, not long after she sent that harrowing tweet.
Now Bana has written a book. In Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace, Bana tells the story of her short life, beginning when she was born into a happy family in a peaceful country and continuing through her childhood as Syria grew increasingly violent. She catalogues the different kinds of bombs that were dropped in Aleppo and explains that she could tell them apart by the sound they made. She describes digging through rubble in search of her friend’s baba (“father”). She talks about how sad she felt when her home was destroyed by a bomb. Told from a child’s perspective, the story is stripped down to its simplest elements, throwing the tragedy of the thing into sharp relief.
We were able to catch up with Bana (and her mother, Fatemah) over email last week to talk about the book, the war in Syria, and Bana’s new doll. Dear World goes on sale October 1.
First of all, we’re all so happy that you’re safe. How have you been?
Bana Alabed: Now I can go to school and be happy, because it’s safe. In Syria it was dangerous because of the bombs. Sometimes my little brother could not speak because he was so afraid of the bombs. He is now learning English like me. And I am teaching him! And we are very happy! When we had to leave Syria as refugees, we couldn’t bring much with us when we escaped. But now I have a new doll and books and we can play outside again.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you wrote the book with your mom, Fatemah?
I study English in my school, and my mum was an English teacher in Syria before the war. I am a good writer because I practice a lot, but I still needed some help writing my book! My mum and my editor, who published this book, helped me to tell my story in English. I also got to draw pictures for the book—drawing is one of my favorite things. I want other children and people around the world to know what happened to us in Aleppo.
Was it hard to have to think so much about this painful time as you wrote the book?
I love books and to read, and I wanted to tell my story before I forget. I feel very sad to leave my home, my school, my dolls, very sad. I want to go home, but don’t know when. I hope my book makes readers want to help other children suffering from war.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of the book, for me, was when you talked about having to stop going to school. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and why it was hard for you?
I want people to know what is happening to Syrian children. We feel scared every day. When the bombs came, we had to hide in the basement. One day my school was bombed, my dad was afraid I was there when the war planes came. But me and my mum were hiding somewhere else. When I lost my school, I missed drawing and doing math. I just started school again and I love my new uniform and I can have school friends again. I am so happy.
What do you hope people take away from this book when they read it?
I hope the world will help Syrian children. We just want to go to school and play outside and live in peace. Anne Frank grew up in war and told her story in a book. We both believe that if we told our story, that the world might listen and help.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
For all the children and refugees, to stop the war in Syria. For just me, to rebuild my house so we can be home again as a family.