PW #373: Young Adult Contemporary (Own Voices): THE BRAVERY OF ZOE AL-MANSUR

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor: Dannie Morin
Mentee: Sara C. Metz
Category/Genre: YA Contemporary (Own Voices)
Word Count: 58,300


Fifteen-year-old Zuhayra “Zoe” al-Mansur, a Muslim refugee who escaped ISIS in Syria, must relive memories of her father’s murder during a school shooting to save her classmates and herself.


MARCH 2016

In the fifteen months since Zuhayra arrived at the Turkish refugee camp, it snowed more days than she cared to count. But she did count. Every flurry, every white dusting that mixed with dark sand like salt and pepper on a lamb roast.

She first saw snow in Damascus while visiting her brother. Nine-year-old Zuhayra built snowmen on parked taxis and went sledding through alleys on tea trays. That evening, soaked and exhausted, she hung her wet clothes over a radiator in the family’s hotel room and changed for dinner.

Now she paced outside the camp office, arms folded across her chest to stay warm. Snowflakes drifted in the air, and she batted them away. Winter wasn’t fun here. It crept into people’s lives and disappeared without remorse, and no one woke to a warm, crisp sweater, eager to start the day. Sunrise was when mourning started.

A wail rose in the distance, and Zuhayra’s face snapped toward it. Another mother, brother, daughter, or grandson must have given in to the cold. She searched for a distraction. Her mother sat on a crate by the office door, still catching her breath from their walk. Nearby, children and old women slipped between beige tents, water buckets in hand.

The chain-link perimeter caught her eye, and she hesitated. When her family arrived fifteen months ago, they slept on the other side, clutching tattered belongings they carried through the desert. They waited three days to be admitted. Zuhayra couldn’t even wash her clothes in the meantime, though they were stained with her father’s blood.

That was the first time it snowed.


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