Young Reader turned novelist: One UNRWA student writes of purpose and possibility

23 October 2019
Ro’a Sheesh photographed in the library of her childhood UNRWA school. © 2019 UNRWA Photo by Abeer Ismail.

Ro’a recalls that a short story entitled "Bulbul," was her first attempt at writing, which she describes as amatuer. The library of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Dheisheh Girls’ School 1, near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, was where Ro’a Sheesh first began her love for reading and writing.

Ro’a, a 27-year-old refugee woman, just published her debut novel titled “Wings”, for which she was awarded the AM Qattan Foundation Award for Culture and Arts. “I discovered my passion for reading and writing when I was nine years old. I used to spend all the free time I could at my school library. I read heaps of books, stories and novels. This led me to realize that I loved to write too!” Ro’a said. She credits that very same library for inspiring her to become the writer and novelist she is today.

Ro’a was one of several writers competing in the AM Qattan Youth Writer Award - Novel category. The award included a cash prize and was recommended for publishing! The 288-page novel was published by al-Dar al-Ahliya Publishing and Distribution and a special book launch was organized at the Mahmoud Darwish Museum on 22 January 2019. 

When asked to describe her debut work, Roa’a noted: "The novel contains a considerable amount of imagination and is based on the conflict between good and evil. It focuses on the road to finding one’s passion. It’s about a women who has all the typical ingredients for happiness; friends, a job and a loving husband, but she isn’t happy. This leads her to begin a journey in search of her passion."

Ro’a visits her school whenever she has the chance. She introduced her novel in a presentation to students who love to read. The group call themselves "Journey of a Reader”. She dreams of one day translating her novel to English and adapting to a feature film. Her novel “Wings" can now be found in bookstores and public libraries.