SHORT STORY REVIEW: ‘A Very Young Judge’ by Leila Aboulela
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ward-winning author Leila Aboulela is one of over 200 contributors to the landmark anthology ‘New Daughters of Africa’. Her contribution to the anthology is a short story titled ‘A Very Young Judge’. Leila Aboulela is the author of five books, including her short story collection titled ‘Elsewhere, Home’, which won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year, and her most recent novel called ‘Bird Summons’.

‘A Very Young Judge’ by Leila Aboulela:

Growing up, most of us probably had that one friend, who we were very fond of but who somehow, wittingly or not, made us feel at once inadequate about ourselves and grateful to be around them. That kind of friendship is what Leila Aboulela’s short story ‘A Very Young Judge’ is about.

The story explores the friendship between the first person narrator and her fashionable, fascinating, and ferocious friend Leena. It examines the role and nature of friendships between women and girls. ‘A Very Young Judge’ shows that women and girls can be each other’s most fierce judges and / or supporters.

Alongside this, the story also shines a light on the importance of self-determination, discernment, and critical examination of one’s friends and circle. It’s easy to get absorbed by a group of friends and forget to remain critical of one’s own and their morals alike. ‘A Very Young Judge’ also shows how quickly the most popular and revered girl in school (or anywhere else, for that matter) can morph into a deeply problematic, judgmental, and exclusionary person. It alludes to the fact that ‘hero-worship’ and the idolisation of any human being is a dangerous and slippery slope, because we are all fallible and susceptible to change.

To top it all off, Leila Aboulela also effortlessly inserts thought provoking aspects about Sudan’s history, the country’s social, political and religious context. The writing is characteristically clear, flowing, and enjoyable.

Overall, ‘A Very Young Judge’ is a short but very impactful story, written by a gifted wordsmith who doesn’t need many words to create a complete picture.


If you’d like to support the work of Leila Aboulela and all the other contributors, you can pre-order the anthology here and receive it shortly after its official publication date (for trade or large-scale orders, please get in touch with us via our contact page).

‘New Daughters of Africa’ will be available in paperback from 03 September across the United Kingdom.