Dubai: Inspired by her children to become an author, Noura Al No’man’s goal to expand the science fiction genre in Arabic literature has seen her first novel Ajwan be one of five books to compete for the Best Young Adult Book Etisalat Award with plans to transform the story into a television series.

The Emirati author, who first fell in love with the genre at the age of 14, was encouraged to write a novel after realising there was a lack of Arabic science fiction books competing with international best-sellers such as Harry Potter, Hunger Games or Vampire Diaries which she wanted to provide for her children.

“Sci-fi is an incredibly rare genre in the Arab world,” Noura told Gulf News, pointing out that her love for reading and her wide imagination helped her create the events that took place in her story.

The book takes young readers on an unusual adventure with a plot that tells the tale of Ajwan, a 19-year-old girl who narrowly escapes the destruction of her planet and the extinction of her race, finding herself alone without family or friends.

Struggling to survive, Ajwan has to deal with violent events that take place on different planets such as abductions, suicide bombings, murders and hijackings, explained Noura. The author also pointed out that the book has a lot of parallels with what has been happening in the Arab world over the past two decades, but without being too obvious or pedantic. “There is no Earth, no Arabs and no religions in this book,” she added.

The hidden message

Recommended for teenagers, the book’s main character, a refugee, shows several courageous characteristics throughout the story.

When Ajwan hits rock bottom, she rises and continues to overcome the obstacles in her way.

“The idea is to show young adults that it is really up to you if you want to stay down or get up and make your own destiny,” said the author.

Noura added that the book also refers to the marginalised and disenfranchised who are exploited by people making them blow themselves up to further their own agenda.

“Our education system has created followers, and there is very little critical thinking which is why a lot of our youth are attracted to religious militant groups — All they need is to think and reassess and that’s the message of the book,” said Noura.

TV series

Published by Nahdet Misr, the book which was launched at the Sharjah International Book Fair last year is now set to expand into a TV series before next year’s Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival (SICFF), where it will hold its first screening. After being shortlisted for the Best Young Adult Book Award taking place this November, the author, in collaboration with Sharjah Media Arts for Children and Youth (FUNN) will be transforming her book into a TV series which will shown on TV networks, locally and internationally once it is ready for screening and distribution, said FUNN’s Assistant Manager and SICFF Director, Jawaher Abdullah Al Qasimi.

“It is a beginning of a new adventure, in making dreams into realities, discovering Emirati and Arab talents and helping them make it into the next level,” said Al Qasimi.

Forty-five-year-old author Noura has also published two picture books for three-year-old children and has finished writing the sequel to Ajwan, along with the basic plots for the third and fourth book.