“Spoilers: The themes of war and feminism on the homefront and battlefield are revealed in Suzanne Strong’s novel, Where The Sun Rises, a suspenseful and heartbreaking novel about two women who join an all-female fighting unit in war torn Syria.
In 2014, Karin and Roza are two friends who live in Kobane, Syria in tense anticipation as Daesh’s army is closing in on the Kurds. Many men are fighting a resistance against the approaching army. The people left behind are left with the choices: either leave Syria forever, take up arms and join the fight, or stay and take their chances. Either way, these are difficult dour options, options that could end in misery, violence, and death.
Roza and Karin are ready to face these dark changing times. Roza is a teacher and married woman who lives with her loving husband, Sercan, and darling son, Yez. Karin is unmarried, but has her own views about what a woman should do. She recently ended an engagement with an abusive fiance. Karin is ready to fight against Daesh, but her traditional family forbids it. Her brothers can go of course.
Sercan is joining the Resistance against Daesh. Roza is worried and doesn’t want him to go, but understands why he has to. When Sercan and Karin’s brother, Mani, are killed in action, Roza and Karin grieve, but then wipe their tears and enlist in the Yekineyen Parastina Jin (YPJ), the all-female fighting unit.
This novel is particularly effective in how Roza and Karin are portrayed. They are motivated to join by grief and revenge, but also by other reasons. Roza is protective towards Yez and signs up as an ultimate act of motherhood to keep any harm from coming towards her child. Karin enlists as though to prove her worth as a woman. She is tired of being treated as a second class citizen and wants to prove her worth to her country, family, and herself.
Karin is rational and feisty while Roza is quiet and emotional, but the two make a great team. Their friendship is developed on the battlefield as violence and bloodshed that surrounds them makes them more protective towards each other.
We also see characterization developed in the rest of the unit as well. Perhaps Strong wanted to avoid stereotypes and cliches. Perhaps since the lead characters are female, Strong wanted to emphasize collaboration over competition, but Commander Tolhedan, their leader, is a relief. While she is stern, she is not a shouting drill sergeant. She has a dry sense of humor and clear compassion towards the women in her unit. Tolhedan knows that “a woman can fight” against their enemy and society’s perception of them and is ready to use any means necessary to help her women prove it.
There are some really tense moments that solidify the horrors of war and the deep friendships that the women feel towards each other. Their joy is felt when they defiantly sing traditional Kurdish folk songs over a fire. Suspense mounts as the YPJ take on a dangerous mission to rescue a soldier’s sister and other women who are about to be trafficked to Daesh’s army. They also face heartbreak when a raid results in the death of a friend and colleague of Karin and Roza’s.
Karin and Roza’s characters evolve even as their friendship is strengthened on the front. The intense grief is understood when Karin and Roza return to Kobane and Roza pays her respects to Sercan’s grave no longer the shy schoolteacher, but a fierce warrior ready for action. Karin also begins a transformation as she develops close friendships with the other women and begins to trust and fall in love with a male journalist who shares her progressive views about women. The two friends help each other through the changes as Karin provides another emotional center for Yez and Roza helps steer Karin towards her own personal happiness.
Where the Sun Rises shines with rich fully characterized women who face war and death, but most importantly are pulled together by their friendship. This friendship is what helps see them through the dark days of war and look towards the better brighter days ahead.”
My friend sent me this. 😊This is very Interesting, isn’t it? My novel is about these women that fought in Kobane, Syria against Daesh, particularly two best friends, it is fictional but based on extensive research I did over 3 years (it was published in 2019). Good to see these courageous women getting attention. 😊#kurdish#kurdishwomenfighters#kurdishwomenpower
Hey guys, I was excited today to see Where the Sun Rises was in the top 8 in the UK Middle Eastern Literature. 🙂 Thanks for reading. 🙂 I hope you are going okay in the UK as it is distressing to see what is happening over there. My thoughts and prayers are with you all and with all of the countries around the world that are suffering so much right now. We will get through this and we all feel your pain. Suz
For a limited time Where the Sun Rises – will be available on the above outlets for $1.95 so if you’re curious about finding out about the real women that fought ISIS in 2014, download it today.
I hope your new year is starting off well. 🙂 Thanks for reading, have a good day. Suz
This is a bit late but it has been an unusual year for everyone. Within this year the whole world stood still and united with one common purpose, to survive a deadly virus. This was anxiety producing but also was strangely comforting in that we were all experiencing it, wealthy and poor, rich countries and undeveloped countries, it was a leveler.
My brother has become deathly ill this year, and he was separated over a border within my country. This was extremely difficult, but we did visit him a number of times, there have been hospital visits and stressful moments of near death. I know many people have lost loved ones with this virus so I know there are many people going through unimaginable loss. I lost my other brother ten years ago to alcoholism, but it was a long struggle which stretched over a decade of trying to help him and doing all I could.
So, this year has had many challenges. I have a spiritual belief, so this keeps me grounded and I know everything happens for a Divine reason and I believe there is a loving God. At the end of this year I reflect on the good and the bad that occurred this year. I learnt a lot about myself, about what I really valued, about my creativity, about people in my life that were both positive and negative, about what to hang onto and what to let go of, about what was really important and I learnt to speak up a bit more.
Even though this year has been hard we have still learnt a lot about ourselves, we have bonded together at times, we have seen acts of kindness and hopefully we have learnt to look after others as well as ourselves.
I look forward to a New Year, which we should also know and accept is not certain in anyway, but it is certain that the people in our lives that love, appreciate, and listen to us, these are the precious people we need to value and love in return.
Thanks for reading. 🙂 I wish you a lovely New Year and I hope you had a beautiful Christmas as well. God bless. Suz
“Sarah Johns walked into the room with a cameraman shouldering his equipment. Karin noticed how Sarah stood with her shoulders back, walking with a casual, confident stride, her legs long and slim, seeming to lead the way for her upper body. Her presence in the room, strangely, was both unassuming and commanding at the same time. Her frame did, however, slump forward somewhat in a posture of weariness.
Her hair was short and dark like a raven’s; her eyes were a green Karin had rarely seen, deep in color, with light inflections towards the pupil and framed by long, black eyelashes. She was not wearing makeup and wore khaki pants and a black t-shirt that hung over her pants.”
Where the Sun Rises, Suzanne Strong, 2019
Hey guys, this is the character for my new novel that I am writing. The novel follows Sarah’s story, from her point of view and is set in Australia and Syria. 🙂 I am enjoying exploring her story. I will post more about this new novel as I go. It has been a very different process to my first book which was heavily based on research, this book is much closer to my own life, though it is not my life.
Thanks for reading, guys. Let me know if you are interested in my next book. Have a lovely day. 🙂 Suz