Manhattan Book Review

Where the Sun Rises
By Suzanne Strong
Green Acre Publishing, $13.95, 271 pages, Format: eBook

Where the Sun Rises is a novel told from alternating viewpoints of two childhood friends: Karin and Roza. The story begins in 2014 when the Islamic State, ISIS, or Daesh, as some choose to call them in protest, begin to invade the city of Kobane, in the Kurdish region of Syria. It’s a heartwrenching story of two women who give up everything to protect their families and the land that they love. Both Karin and Roza individually join the YPJ (Women’s Protection Unit) of the YPG, the Kurdish people’s militia to fight against ISIS. They reunite at a training camp for the YPJ.

Both women face heartbreaking losses and choose to fight for the YPJ out of fierce love for their families and the place they call home. Karin is studying to be a doctor, and Roza is a former English teacher and mother to a six-year-old. This novel traces the journey two highly educated young women take to become tough, skillful militia fighters. It also provides insight into how the women fighters are trained and how they are as fierce fighters as the men.

The civil war in Syria has many facets, and Where the Sun Rises opens a door to the perspective of the Kurdish people living in Syria. Reading it helped me realize how little I know about Kurdistan, Syria, and the geopolitics of the region. Although Karin and Roza’s story is fictional, I can easily imagine how many real-life women have similar stories. Karin and Roza’s courage will catch you and make you wonder at their ability to persevere. They are ordinary women who respond to extraordinary circumstances.

I cried throughout this story, and what I took from the ending was that we all have the ability to fight for what we love when the situation demands it, though the cost we pay is very high.”