Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow - reviewed by Sihame Bouhout
"Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow"Faiza Guene 192 pages Harvest Books, 2006
Doria, fifteen years old, lives only with her mother in an apartment of the Parisian suburbs. She recalls the small and great events of her life including high school, the neighborhood, and her apartment. Doria introduces her mother, a cleaning lady exploited in a motel, as well as her friends, in particular Hamoudi, who recites poetry to her by Rimbaud. She goes into detail about the psychiatrist, teachers, and welfare officers who often do not understand her living situation. Doria also writes about the absence of her father, who has left and started a new life in Morocco with another woman. Overall, Doria opens up her universe; one divided between her dreams, her reality and the television, which is her window that looks out to the rest of the world.
Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow is Faiza Guene's first novel, having completing it at nineteen years old. This young French daughter of Algerians grew up in les Courtilleres in Seine Saint-Denis, a northeastern Parisian suburb.
Faiza Guene wished to honor these inhabitants, because they are too often shown in a pejorative way by the press.
This novel is a criticism, through the eyes of Doria, of the public social assistance provided in France, which includes the aide of psychologists, the welfare officers, and the programs that help eliminate illiteracy. Although these services seem generous, they do not replace real integration.
However, it is also a novel which shows some positive points about these structures of assistance. In spite of the negative spirit of the teenager, it was the welfare officer who allowed Doria's mother to learn in the literacy courses, and Doria herself relies on Mrs. Burlaud, her psychologist. Doria's therapy is regarded as finished at the end of the novel.
Faiza Guene is indeed reflective, but leaves the desire to learn more about the downsides of this less than perfect existing social system. Guene also often uses excessive stereotypes with Doria's absentee father, her mother, the cleaning lady and her lowlife friend, who has been in and out of jail and is a constant drug abuser.
Guene's novel also stereotypes the characters' vernacular by voicing them solely in slang, which is how the entire novel is written, as if the author herself is one of these characters. In addition, however, her style of writing does reveal one who is sensitive and intelligent. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow remains a good novel, but Faiza Guene seems naïve concerning these circumstances which may be in part because of her youth. Nevertheless, her ironic feather does not fail to distract us. The philosophy of this account is enthralling. Faiza Guene invites people to find happiness in simple things of everyday life.