Why Looking at the Stars?
We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars
I’m a romantic. There, I’ve said it. And an idealist. People who know me might be surprised at that because on the surface I’m a very realistic, practical sort of person. But deep down I passionately wish this was a better world. And I wish everyone could find happiness, whether with another person or alone.
So the quotation from Oscar Wilde has always appealed to me. I’m not a big one for poetry, oddly, but I love the way words can shape and inspire. What the phrase says to me is that no matter how bad things get, there is always something beautiful to find and appreciate. Even if you’re in the gutter, sitting in sewage, with nothing but the clothes you have on, there will still be stars in the sky that you can breathe in and allow their beauty to fill the empty space inside you.
In Looking at the Stars, Amina’s family loses almost everything. Through a sequence of events, Amina finds herself separated from her brother, young sister and parents, and walking to a refugee camp with her older sister Jenna. She has no idea if she will ever see any of them again – indeed, she can’t even be sure if they’re still alive. She could be crushed by grief, but she is an idealist. Amina loves to ask ‘what if?’ – something that has got her into trouble in the past but now is an invaluable skill. She looks up at the stars and suddenly stories are spilling into her head. She tells the stories to Jenna, and later to people in the refugee camp, and magic happens. For the duration of her story, people forget their grief and distress and are lost in her imagination. Amina’s stories provide much-needed balm for wounded souls.
I firmly believe that the arts – music, drama, dance, art, stories – are vital for people’s inner strength. I prize imagination above all else, for without imagination how can we ever improve our situations? And that’s why there’s a large part of me in Amina, and why I chose the title for the book that I did.
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