Fab Five Things about my Protagonist by Nillu Nasser
Today is my stop on the blog tour for Hidden Colours and I am here today with a fantastic guest post from the author!
Author: Nillu Nasser
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Published: 3rd December 2018
Add It: Amazon UK Goodreads.
Summary:Each evening, nestled in Berlin’s Treptower Park, the immigrant circus comes to life.
When Yusuf fled Syria, he lost everything. Now the circus, with its middle-eastern flair, is the only home he knows. When the lights go on, the refugees dazzle their audience, but off-stage tensions flare.
Ellie is passionate about the circus and drawn to its broken people. Even so, if she wants to keep her job at the newspaper, she must head up a campaign against it.
One night, in the midst of a show, two young circus boys come to blows. With the circus at risk of closure, Ellie must convince her readers that we can have compassion for those we fear, or Yusuf will be forced to uproot again.
Fab Five Things about my Protagonist
My novels often start with an image in my head that I can’t shake. Sometimes I worry that an excellent idea will fade away if I can’t jot it down quickly enough. The truth is, it’s the ideas that are sticky that are most worth exploring, the ones that float to the top of your subconscious mind even when you’re busy.
That’s how it was with Yusuf Alam, my protagonist in Hidden Colours. I saw him in my mind’s eye in mid-flight, having jumped from the trapeze, and he was scared. That stuck with me. Let me tell you some of my favourite things about Yusuf.
1. ‘He sprang from the trapeze, corkscrewed through the air, his body a whirl.’
Yusuf is an acrobat who fled the war in Syria and travelled the treacherous journey to Germany to start a new life. There, he performs at Berlin’s immigrant circus. I’ve always thought acrobats are wonderful. My mouth drops open even when I see footballers do backflips, so writing about an acrobat was fun. He’s brave and strong, and when he leaps from the trapeze, he trusts his body and feels free–as long as he can keep his thoughts in check.
2. ‘Working with the children gave him renewed purpose…He wanted to give them something to live for, someone to depend on.’
I also love Yusuf’s loyalty. He’s only in his mid-twenties and the past has already scarred him. His dad used to beat him as a child, and Yusuf’s older brother Selim would intervene and try and draw their father’s violence to himself. The brothers were close until the war took Selim’s life.
Eventually, the situation in Syria worsens and Yusuf becomes a refugee, leaving his mother behind, who insists she is too old to travel but wants her remaining son to take this chance for a better life. So Yusuf leaves and is essentially dislocated, unrooted and adrift from all he has known.
But there’s something special about Yusuf. He becomes central to the immigrant circus. He has a loyal nature and is a natural leader. The circus children gravitate towards him, the ringmaster sees him as an equal and he forms the closest bond with the German-born circus warden from all the refugees. There’s so much good in him.
3. ‘His anger helped him soar. Power surged through him, as if he was in the eye of the storm.’
Yusuf teaches us that good humans don’t have to be perfect. It’s not mentioned overtly in the novel but the traumas of the war, his brother’s death and fleeing Syria have resulted in Yusuf developing PTSD. He gets flashbacks and panic attacks, the sweats and sometimes he can’t turn his internal voice off. He also gets angry at the unfairness of his situation. He considers criminal behaviour. Sometimes, he jumps to the wrong conclusion about people trying to help him. But as readers, we give him a chance anyway, because we know his history and that he has the potential to turn his life around.
4. ‘He didn’t tell Doris how much he’d come to depend on her. How her touch, even briefly on his shoulder, or a hug, filled that cavernous part of him that missed his mother.’
I love Yusuf’s relationship with the women in his life. He misses his mum, who he left behind in Syria. He longs for the touch of her hand on his cheek, the taste of her cooking and he saves money underneath his mattress to give to her. He has a special bond with Doris, the circus warden, although they couldn’t be more different from one another. And when Leila the cook takes the brunt of another refugee’s anger, it’s Yusuf who sticks up for her. He’s appreciates how women have made an impact in his life using skills that aren’t always appreciated.
5. ‘His relationship with Allah had been complicated by all he’d seen and suffered. It was a small jump to deny his faith.’
I feel mean for putting Yusuf through the wringer but I love his fighting spirit. He is often conflicted. Nothing is easy, not even his faith, but he still fights against the closure of the immigrant circus even though his enemies are more powerful than him. Even though he might not win and his pain might be for nothing. In my own life, I don’t want to fight battles all day. Sometimes I just want to sit on the sofa and eat ice cream, but not Yusuf. He flounders when the world seems dark but then he acts. It’s a treat to see him move closer to the man he’s supposed to be.