On Bullying and Suicide with Sara Islam, Author of Second Chances

Friday April 13, 2018               By: WOE Staff

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If you had a second chance to live your life again, what would you do differently? This is the premise of Second Chances, Sara Islam’s, 20, debut novel. It tells the story of Lara Davis, a popular teenager, bullied by her schoolmates. When a humiliating video of her goes viral, she attempts suicide. While unconscious from an overdose, Davis gets a glimpse at her life and how her suicide affected everyone around her. Second Chances also sheds light on parental abuse and self-harming.

Suicide is a morbid issue for a young author to write about, but for someone who was bullied herself, Islam understands its impact on young people.
Islam, a sophomore at Al Alsun University, also writes poems. In high school, she ranked 4th is her school district poetry competition.

Women of Egypt: How did you become a published writer at this young age?
Sara Islam: I’ve always been an avid reader. Ever since I was young, my mom would buy me books in English and Arabic, and when I grew older she pushed me to read newspapers, sometimes against my will. She always told me that one day I’d appreciate it, and she was absolutely right

30007775_163234407719797_1852662871_nWOE: What inspired you to write Second Chances?
SI: I’ve always hated the idea of bullying and I’ve watched many documentaries about it and how it triggered young people to commit suicide. As a person who was bullied myself, I knew its negative impact on young people. When I noticed how bullying rates were on the rise, I started thinking of ideas for a novel that discuss this problem. I read many books that dealt with suicide and I hated their sad endings. Not once have I read a book that dealt with this problem without getting disappointed, and one book got me really depressed. That’s why I wanted to write a book that deals with suicide in a different way. I wanted to focus on how the family feels and the friends, too, and how it changes their lives. I also focused on the feelings of the person who committed suicide.

WOE: Why did you write your book in English?
SI: I have been studying English since I was 3. My grandma always spoke to me in English, to enrich my vocabulary. Also, I’m totally in love with this language. After I studied Pygmalion, my love for English increased and it made me want to study the language as a profession. I also express myself better in English. I dream to become the first Egyptian female author to have her English written novels on New York Best Sellers.

WOE: Why did you choose a foreign name for your character?
SI: The whole novel takes place in Pennsylvania, USA, so I used the names that are common there.

WOE: Was it easy to find a publisher?
SI: Not at all. Not a lot of publishers in Egypt publish English novels and this is a big problem for English writers here.

30118409_163270954382809_170908606_nWOE: Are you going to continue writing this theme or you will diversify to other issues?
SI: I will diversify my writing. I don’t like confining myself in a specific genre.

WOE: To the best of your knowledge, what do you think goes through the mind of a person who commits suicide؟
SI: I think everything turns black in their eyes and they lose hope in life, that’s why they choose death over life.

WOE: Why do kids bully? Are they aware of how their actions can be hurtful?
SI: I think those who bully have self-confidence issues and they bully other kids to make them feel bad about themselves, in hope of boosting their own confidence. They most probably see their actions as fun games. They only realize how bad these actions can be when a disaster happens.

warning-signsWOE: Why do you think life can get so hard for young people?
SI: School causes a lot of stress for many young people, and even the problems they have among their friends may seem like the end of the world to them, as they did not see much of life yet. Also, some of them have familial issues and they get affected by them badly. Mothers play an important role in the lives of their kids, specially girls, once they start growing up. If a mother is not doing her job right, it affects the young people terribly. That’s why mothers should be friends with their kids.

WOE: Who should read your book?
SI: It’s more likely for students, school or university students. I think adults should read it too because it could give them a glimpse of how kids could be cruel to each other, and the book also shows the importance of family in the kids’ lives, so I guess it could be useful for them.

suicideWOE: Are there SOS calls sent by young people for help?
SI: Many young people do it indirectly, like joke about commuting suicide or talk more about it to attract attention. Sadly, some people are mocked when they talk about their problems, that’s why a lot of them choose to stay silent.

WOE: What are the symptoms of someone who wants to commit suicide?
SI: The scariest thing is that there may be no symptoms. They could be laughing and going out with friends, but inside, they would be planning their suicide. However, I think common symptoms are depression, isolation, crying a lot and having a negative view of life.

WOE: Do they reach out for help?
SI: Some do and some don’t.

WOE: Who are your favorite writers?
SI: I like reading for Veronica Roth and Anna Todd. But I read the works of others too, like Rainbow Rowell, John Green and Gayle Foreman.

WOE: What was the last book you read?
SI: Just Friends by Billy Taylor and I’m currently reading Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.

WOE: What’s your favorite genre?
SI: Drama and Thriller

WOE: Do you want to pursue a writing career? Or is it just a hobby?
SI: I wish it would be my future career. It would be awesome to make a career out of my hobby.

Check Sara Islam’s Facebook page here

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