Stranger than fiction: 15-year-old girl is youngest English-language Saudi author

Leena Althekair, second right, with her family at her book-signing event in Jeddah. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 09 September 2018
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Stranger than fiction: 15-year-old girl is youngest English-language Saudi author

  • Young author said she had her share of naysayers and detractors who told her she was not old enough to succeed
  • Althekair recently appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Jeddah to sign copies for excited readers

JEDDAH: At the age of just 15, a schoolgirl has become the youngest Saudi to publish an English-language novel. Leena Althekair started writing her book, “Foreshadow,” in the summer of 2017, when she was still only 14.

“I have always had this idea but it wasn’t clear,” she said. “But as I kept writing, it got easier and now it’s in the form of ‘Foreshadow.’”

The idea for the story originally emerged from a school writing assignment.

“I actually wrote an essay for school and when I re-read it I thought, ‘You know what? This is a pretty good novel idea’ — and then I spent whole summer writing it,” she said.

“For me, it was never about becoming well known, it was getting the message across that age doesn’t really matter; what matters is that you need to work hard. You are never too young or too old to be chasing your dreams.”

Althekair said she had her share of naysayers and detractors who told her she was not old enough to succeed.

“People would say to me, ‘You are still young — don’t do it now because you have so much ahead of you.’ But my mom and dad and my friends have been such a big support, cheering me on,” she said. “Sometimes I would just want to stop but my friends told me to go on. In the beginning it was hard, because people wouldn’t take me seriously. A lot of them didn’t say anything but they would give me strange looks. I focused on the people who supported me instead.”

It is well known that writer’s block is the worst enemy of an author. Most will face it at some time, and Leena was no exception.

“In the middle of the book I started panicking because I had only planned it that far,” she said. “There were times I deleted whole chapters right before sending it to the editor and wrote the whole thing again.”

After pushing through the tough times, the book was finally completed and published, and Althekair recently appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Jeddah to sign copies for excited readers. Her family were there, as always, showing support for their talented daughter.

The book features a suspenseful, well-written story that draws the reader in from page one. The plot revolves around the adventures of Meghan, who is about to start high school. Her older brother is a physics geek, and she is spending time with him in his lab when an accident changes her life.

As for Althekair’s own continuing adventure as an author, she said she has ideas for further novels, including a possible sequel for “Foreshadow.”


Al-Jubeir: Saudi-led coalition ‘working with UN to end Yemen conflict’

The Houthis should engage in the political process and respond to the will of the international community to end the war and end the coup against the legitimate government, said Saudi Arabia's foreign minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Al-Jubeir: Saudi-led coalition ‘working with UN to end Yemen conflict’

  • Since day one, we said that the solution… is a political solution, says Saudi FM
  • Al-Jubeir: Saudi Arabia is the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Yemen, providing more than $13 billion since the start of the conflict

RIYADH: The Saudi-led coalition is working with UN envoy Martin Griffith to reach a political solution to the conflict in Yemen based on UN Security Council resolution 2216, the Gulf Initiative and the outcomes of Yemeni national dialogue, the Saudi foreign minister said on Thursday. 

“Since day one, we said that the solution… is a political solution, and the solution should lead to the restoration of legitimacy in Yemen,” said Adel Al-Jubeir.

“We support a peaceful solution in Yemen. We support the efforts of the UN envoy for the Yemeni cause,” he added.

“We are committed to providing all humanitarian support to our brothers there. We are also working on the post-war reconstruction of Yemen.” The Kingdom supports the envoy’s efforts to hold negotiations at the end of November, added Al-Jubeir.

Saudi Arabia is the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Yemen, providing more than $13 billion since the start of the conflict, he said.

In contrast, Houthi militias are imposing restrictions on Yemeni cities and villages, leading to starvation, he added. 

They are also seizing humanitarian aid and preventing Yemenis from getting cholera vaccinations, Al-Jubeir said. 

The Houthis fire ballistic missiles indiscriminately at Saudi Arabia, use children as fighters and plant mines across Yemen, he added. 

The Houthis should engage in the political process and respond to the will of the international community to end the war and end the coup against the legitimate government, he said.

Saudi Arabia did not want the conflict in Yemen; it was imposed on the Kingdom, Al-Jubeir added. 

Saudi Arabia worked with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to develop the Gulf Initiative. 

This led to a transition from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to the internationally recognized government headed by current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Kingdom also worked to develop Yemeni national dialogue that led to a Yemeni vision regarding the country’s future.

A new Yemeni constitution was about to be drafted when the Houthis seized much of the country, including the capital. 

Yemen’s legitimate government requested support, and the Saudi-led coalition responded under Article 51 of the UN Charter.