ONE TO WATCH: ‘poignant and powerful… An impressive, thoughtful debut…’ The Bookseller – The UK’s definitive book industry magazine and website
SHORT BIO (50 words)
A. M. Dassu is a writer of both fiction and non fiction books. She is the deputy editor of SCBWI-BI’s Words & Pictures magazine and a director at Inclusive Minds. She won the international We Need Diverse Books mentorship award in 2017. A. M. Dassu’s debut middle grade novel BOY, EVERYWHERE will be published in October 2020.
MEDIUM LENGTH BIO
A. M. Dassu is a writer of both fiction and non fiction books and is based in the heart of England. She is the Deputy Editor of SCBWI-BI’s Words & Pictures magazine and a Director of Inclusive Minds, a unique organisation for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature, and are committed to changing the face of children’s books. Previously, she has worked in project management, marketing, and editorial. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, Times Educational Supplement, SCOOP Magazine, Lee & Low Books, and DK Books. She won the international We Need Diverse Books mentorship award in 2017. A. M. Dassu writes contemporary upper middle grade novels inspired by news stories that are accessible and relatable and which enable young people to walk in others’ shoes. Her stories are about ordinary people who do extraordinary things when thrown into circumstances they never saw coming. She enjoys planning school workshops and shocking her audience by taking a story we think we all know and turning it on its head.
A. M. Dassu has used her publishing deal advances for her debut middle grade novel Boy, Everywhere to assist Syrian refugees in her city and set up a grant to support an unpublished refugee or immigrant writer. It will be published in the UK and Commonwealth in October 2020 and USA in Spring 2021. You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective and Instagram@a.m.dassu or at amdassu.com
LONG DETAILED BIO WITH PAST EXPERIENCE AND CHARITY/VOLUNTARY WORK INFO
A. M. Dassu was born and raised in the heart of England. She is a freelance writer of both fiction and non-fiction books, a magistrate and a director at Inclusive Minds, a unique organisation that provides services and expertise for authors and illustrators, publishing professionals, editors, librarians and teachers who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the deputy editor for SCBWI-BI’s Words & Pictures magazine. She is also a mentor for the Write Mentor Sparks Programme and has helped authors on their journey to securing an agent. Her previous work experience includes project management, marketing and some editorial work at Reader’s Digest.
Six years ago, whilst writing some copy for a friend’s website, A. M. Dassu rediscovered her love of writing for an audience. Her first piece for The Huffington Post, for whom she was a featured writer, was published on the front-page, alongside Barack Obama and Lenny Henry. In January 2017, she received the international We Need Diverse Books YA mentorship award and was also selected for the Writing East Midlands agency’s mentorship scheme. Her work has been published by The Huffington Post, Times Educational Supplement, SCOOP Magazine, Lee & Low Books, and DK Books.
A. M. Dassu firmly believes in giving back to society and has been raising money to support refugees and orphans annually since 2014, and has dedicated many years to volunteering as a school appeals panel member and as a school governor. In 2015, A. M. Dassu wrote a picture book inspired by her son’s school friend; she started looking into publishing it and the rest is history.
She writes immersive and relevant stories for children of all backgrounds that are accessible and relatable and which enable young people to walk in others’ shoes. Her work is inspired by news stories. She explores outside political events and how they impact family relationships and friendships. Her stories humanise ‘the other’, whilst challenging stereotypes. She writes about tolerance, how people interact, become friends, belonging and identity and the expectations of others. She focuses on how something societal impacts multi-cultural families and how they deal with it. Her stories are about ordinary people who do extraordinary things when thrown into circumstances they never saw coming.
A. M. Dassu’s debut BOY, EVERYWHERE is a contemporary upper middle grade novel about a privileged 13-year-old boy from Syria who is forced to leave everything he owns and knows behind. It is a coming-of-age story of friendship, family, belonging and fighting for a better future, and shows how ‘they’ are also ‘us’.
A. M. Dassu has used her publishing deal advances for her debut middle grade novel Boy, Everywhere to assist Syrian refugees in her city and set up a grant to support an unpublished refugee or immigrant writer. It will be published in the UK and Commonwealth in October 2020 and USA in Spring 2021.
She is represented by Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency Inc. You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective and Instagram @a.m.dassu
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‘poignant and powerful… An impressive, thoughtful debut…’
Fiona Noble, The Bookseller
‘It’s a brave book, and an important one, but it’s also a great read and I think there’s nothing else like it for that age group. This is going to be on my list of top recommendations for 2020.’
Dawn Finch, children’s author and librarian. Trustee of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and chair of The Society of Author’s CWIG committee (Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group)
‘Sami is such a relatable character, the voice is perfect, and seeing their journey from his perspective really brings to life anything a child reading might have heard about refugees. This carefully researched and empathetic novel will, deservingly, be compared to Elizabeth Laird. I had my heart in my throat for so much of the story but I also smiled, a brilliantly crafted debut.’
Caroline Fielding CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Youth Libraries Group London chair & National Exhibition Manager
‘Such a realistic story, Sami could be my son, daughter or any of their friends.’
Mayida Yord, Teacher in Damascus, Syria
‘I feel like if I was reading some of my friends stories, I didn’t think it would be so accurate. I really loved it and was so pleased with the end. I was happy to have the opportunity to go on Sami’s journey, the author did a great job describing the situation.’
Mohamad Ghabash, 12-year-old student in Damascus, Syria. His father is a surgeon and mother a teacher, like Sami’s.
‘From a boy that had it all at his home, to someone who was left out on the streets in Manchester, this book brings down to words what happened exactly to many people, victims of the war in Syria.
Surprised by the number of realistic details this book has, I was full with emotions reading it. It marks the truth of our sad reality here in Syria, and most importantly shows the message we always wanted to blurt out but couldn’t, we aren’t happy we came to your land, we were forced to.
In the name of a person who has gone through half what Sami has gone through from bullying to hatred of us, I can affirm that the story told in this book is a hundred percent true, and there’s even been worse.
However, the presence of the good deeds in people helped a lot going through rough periods of time, the world needs more of them.
I really like this book, with all its heart warming, dramatically realistic events that would definitely move something in you. I hope it gets the attention it deserves, we need it. <3’
Layla Jazairy, 15 year old student in Damascus, Syria
‘Rarely do we have insight about middle-class Syrians before they emigrated from the ensuing chaos that began in 2011. However, A. M. Dassu’s Boy Everywhere sensitively takes us through the trials that many faced when they were uprooted from a life many of us in the West can relate to. It puts us in the uncomfortable position of thinking what if this was my family? But more than that, the characters and friendships formed with Sami, our hero, tugs and connects us with a life we yearn to be restored to a semblance of what he had before. Endearing yet powerful, this is a heartfelt depiction of one family’s war. I think this book sets a precedent for seeing Syrians as multi-dimensional people rather than what we hear on the news. It’s refreshing and I hope more publishers get to publish stories like this that show a different side. Yours is one of the gateways to that. This feels like an evolutionary book compared to others we read that only focus on the refugee part rather than the life they left behind.’
Eiman Munro – SEN Teacher (lived in Damascus for a year)
‘Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed it. I really couldn’t wait to read what happened next – it was so interesting. It’s been very frustrating for Syrians and personally for me when reading books about Syria or refugees by individuals who have no real experience or true understanding about authentic Syrian culture or about the issues we face, and many books have been published where Syrians are not consulted in the writing of them and they are published with cultural mistakes and negative stereotypes. I find this frustrating so it’s been great to read Boy, Everywhere that challenges those stereotypes and shows the reality of Syrians before the war. I loved the characters, they were very realistic and so convincing, the friendships so real. Such a good story – a brilliant novel.’
Nadine Kaadan, children’s author and illustrator from Damascus, Syria who now lives in London
‘A powerful and gut-wrenchingly moving story of one family’s displacement, crucially seen through the boy’s own eyes. Casually smashing stereotypes and challenging thinking, Dassu skilfully combines the stark and often shocking reality of the refugee experience with the commonality of being a teenager. The result is utterly thought-provoking yet eminently readable. Quite simply a must-read for all.’
Alexandra Strick, Consultant, BookTrust
‘Sami’s story is gripping, heart-breaking and realistic, told with devastating clarity and compassion. This perspective is urgently needed, showing the richness of the lives left behind in Syria as the war forces a terrible journey to safety.’
Liz Flanagan, children’s author
‘A.M. Dassu’s ‘Boy, Everywhere’ is a powerful story about the plight of refugees. I was hooked on Sami’s story and my heart was in my throat from the very beginning of the book. This story is full of empathy and friendship and I’m so glad the world will get to read it soon. Sami and his family face heart-breaking prejudice whilst they seek asylum in the UK and these realities need to be told. This will be such an important book for the classroom in the same vein as Onjali Q. Raúf’s ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’. A.M. Dassu’s writing is gripping and emotive and she manages a perfect balance of tragedy, adversity and hope.’
Swapna Haddow – children’s author of Dave Pigeon and the forthcoming novel ‘Torn Apart – The Partition of India, 1947’
‘Boy, Everywhere is a moving and timely coming-of-age story that explores the unique experiences of Sami, an ordinary boy from Damascus whose whole life and understanding of the world is torn apart in the wake of a shopping mall bombing. Sami – with his love of football, computer games and iPads – is such a relatable character, and we follow him through a powerful and heartbreaking journey of growth as his family flee Syria for the (hoped-for) safety of the UK. Along the way, Sami must confront many of his own sheltered beliefs about himself, his family, morality and the world. In the same way, through her compassionate and heartfelt story-telling, A. M. Dassu moves us to open our own eyes to the issues facing refugee families today. A powerful, compassionate and enlightening book.’
Dr. Philippa East, Clinical Psychologist and Author
‘A brave book for our times: a fresh look at a story we think we know, full of danger and leavened with humanity. ‘
Dr. N M Browne writer and creative writing lecturer
‘You’ll wish you were there, in Syria, and whisper to the boy a few kind words, to give him soap and hot water in Turkey, and stand by him as he makes the nightmare sea-crossing to Greece. You’ll wish you were there, in the detention centre, and fight Air Jordans man alongside him. You’ll wish you were there because no one else was there to open their front door and welcome him in England. And without realizing, effortlessly and mysteriously, this story will take you there, because that’s what a good novel does: with pages sprinkled with magic, this book will transport you, as it did me; sitting comfortably at the other side of hope, I was there with that boy, everywhere, living through the stories that many of the refugees I work with have talked to me about.’
Dr. Alexandros Plasatis – Refugee worker, ethnographer and writer.
‘In a world full of stories about refugees, ‘Boy, Everywhere’ tells the story behind the story.
When the Syrian civil war finally reaches Damascus, Sami’s safe and relatable life quickly begins to disintegrate. You cannot help but feel bereft as his friends and belongings are hurriedly left behind and exchanged for a life of confusion and uncertainty.
This book all too realistically charts the swift dismantling of a family’s life. It suddenly becomes easy to understand how a comfortable, well-off existence, can quickly descend into poverty and chaos – how a family’s fate might ultimately be decided in a small boat crossing an inhospitable sea. My heart ached for Sami, leaving everything that he knows behind, and for his parents who can no longer reassure their children that everything will ever be ok again.
Sami’s story is heart breaking and will open people’s eyes and hearts to the plight of refugees everywhere. In a world of ‘othering’ this book does the opposite – it shows clearly that ‘they’ are also ‘us’.
The characters in this book are so relatable, with beautifully drawn details, and the pacing is spot on – I read it in a single sitting. It is a book that should be available in every classroom – it is a book to change hearts.’
Catherine Emmett, children’s author
I couldn’t put this down – what a story! I was on tenterhooks as Sami and his family fled Syria. It felt like I was there with them. I sobbed. I held my breath. I willed them on. This is a story crying out to be heard, and every young person should read it.
Kate Mallinder, children’s author
In Boy, Everywhere, A.M. Dassu draws us into the world of 13-year-old Sami, forced out of his comfortable Damascus life into the nightmarish existence of a refugee. In this close first-person narrative the reader is confronted with the terrible realities of war, people-smuggling, detention centres and prejudice. Dassu skilfully writes a story that feels acutely authentic, while always keeping it age-appropriate for its upper middle grade audience. A must read.
Kirsty Applebaum, children’s author
‘An astonishingly powerful and gripping story that has torn my heart apart and put it back together again. Despite the harrowing journey, the seemingly endless uncertainty and struggle, AM Dassu still manages to uplift the reader with such beautiful moments of human kindness. I’ll be thinking about this book for a very, very long time.’
Rashmi Sirdeshpande, children’s author
‘I felt thoroughly harrowed (as indeed I should). Such an important book – and so timely. Massive congrats on your achievement.’
Tanya Landman, Carnegie Award Winning children’s author
“An adventure for our times. Full of heart, and with an understanding of the humanity of all people, and the complexity of the decision to leave one’s beloved home to start all over again, somewhere strange and difficult. Funny, moving, exciting, enraging by turns, I read most of it through my fingers as the plot twisted and turned to its uplifting but realistic conclusion. A must read for everybody.”
Joanna de Guia, former bookseller, school librarian
‘Good books leave you a little bit changed, Boy, Everywhere made me want to change the world. Everyone should read this book.’
Kathryn Evans, children’s author
“I started Boy, Everywhere planning to nibble away at a chapter before getting on with my work. I stayed reading until the very end. It’s a story that everyone should read, written with empathy, tenderness and hope.”
Patrice Lawrence, award winning children’s author.
More reviews available upon request. Media reviews will be uploaded closer to publication day.
EVENTS AND PUBLIC SPEAKING
A. M. Dassu is a confident speaker who has in the past been interviewed for television and hosted charity auctions and events. She is happy to discuss interviews and school visits in person or via Skype/Zoom. Please contact her here.
- She has been delivering school workshops since 2016, using her experience of class observations as a school governor. More information on these here.
- In February 2019, A. M.Dassu read a chapter from Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon to a big audience at the Southbank Centre in London
- In February 2020, A. M. Dassu moderated a panel of ambassadors at the Inclusive Minds A Place At The Table Conference to an audience of publishers, booksellers and authors.
- She will be pitching her book directly to booksellers at The London Book Fair on 11th March 2020, and to librarians at NYALitFest on 20th March.
- She delivered a short workshop on authentic inclusion at the Children’s Media Conference on 6th July 2020.
- Her WOWCON writing workshop in September 2020 on representation and authenticity in children’s books sold out in 1 hour!
- The launch for her MG novel Boy, Everywhere will be on October 22nd 2020. More details soon!