Using her mother's story, 15-year-old King George secondary student Maha Al-Fahim has published her first book.
"In many places around the world, there are people suffering in silence and [my mother and I] wanted to give them voice. We wanted to raise awareness of child abuse and discrimination against women and the abuse of labour laws and the corrupting power of money," said the soft-spoken Grade 10 student.
Her mother, Amina Al Attar, said Al-Fahim and her sister sewed and distributed waterproof blankets to homeless people last year. Al-Fahim wrote the Vancouver Sun to inspire other teens to create their own projects to help others.
Al-Fahim's skill in writing led her mother to suggest she do more and to write a book.
Born a Gangster's Daughter depicts the physical abuse Al Attar suffered at the hands of her father and the sexual discrimination she experienced in Dubai. Written from Al Attar's point of view, the book describes the near miracle she witnessed, her delight at her father's apparent change of heart and the heartbreak of deception. Ultimately, Gangster's Daughter is described as a testament to the power of speaking the truth, bringing meaning to suffering and to discovering what truly matters.
"Nobody listened to you, you are only just piece of meat, you cannot do anything, but when I came here I feel the difference," Al Attar said about her move to Canada. "Our voices counted, so that make us really more confident we can do something, and my daughter is not only just a girl, she can do something for society."
Al-Fahim has lived in the United Arab Emirates as well as Vancouver.
"I do enjoy the best of both worlds, but here we have the privilege to speak up more and to write the book here," Al-Fahim said. "It would be something that would be difficult to do over there."
An editor polished Al-Fahim's manuscript, which she recently self-published through Amazon and is sending to publishers. Her parents spent $5,000 on the editing, cover and website for the book.
Al-Fahim is considering donating any profits to children and women's organizations in Canada.
She's also starting her own publishing company for teen authors. "There aren't many publishing companies to support young, ambitious authors and that's something I want to do," she said.
Al-Fahim was featured in a Courier cover story last year for her participation in cycling and bike mechanics programs run by the Robert Lee YMCA and King George staff.