Children’s book on Arab immigration out

‘Dates and Kibbeh’ was written by Isa Colli of Espírito Santo, Brazil, who currently lives in Belgium. The book is available in Portuguese and English, and there are plans for a translation into Arabic.

Bruna Garcia Fonseca

São Paulo – Educational children’s books author Isa Colli’s “Dates and Kibbeh” came out in November. The book traces back the history of Arab immigration to São Paulo. An Arab culture aficionada, Colli had a stint living in the Brás neighborhood of the city, where she found out about the history of Hospedaria do Brás, a public lodge which welcomes immigrants from multiple nationalities, including Syrian and Lebanese.

“I wrote ‘Dates and Kibbeh’ very unpretentiously, because I love the culture and the cuisine of the Middle East, and because I am a granddaughter of Spanish and Portuguese immigrants. And while living in Brás, I found out how immigrants have been welcomed since the 18th century, through some grandiose work that’s done until this day. I pieced it all together and wrote a fictional book based on that,” Colli told ANBA on the phone.

The cover of the book’s Portuguese edition

The book tells the tale of Portugal’s José Braz, who used to welcome immigrants from all over at his farm. The place ultimately becomes populated with incredible characters, like Mr. Mohamed, an Arab merchant who owned a spice shop and an Arab restaurant. The little boy Zezinho is awed by the scents and flavors of this hitherto unknown culture.

Zezinho’s life changes as he becomes friends with Mr. Mohamed. The kid takes an interest in Arab cuisine and culture, and he ends up becoming a chef, while learning respect of different cultures and the value of friendship to boot. The book also relays basic lessons in the value of study, work, and entrepreneurship, in a very didactical and playful way “The friendship between them is built on honesty, kinship, care, and truth. It was never about imposition. Zezinho chooses to work with what he loves, and I find that extremely important. We need to choose our profession wisely so we can be happy,” the writer said.

“Dates and Kibbeh” was released in Portuguese an English, and an Arabic version is expected soon. The e-book is available from the writer’s website, and a print version is available here.

Colli has been living in Waterloo, Belgium since 2014. A successful children’s book writer, she has 33 published titles and over 100 completed books. She holds a degree in Social Communication.

Another of Colli’s books, “The Magical Elephant and the Moon,” released in 2019, is set in the Arab world. The book’s available in bilingual English/Portuguese and Arabic/Portuguese editions. The author is looking to publish a book on Italian immigration to Brazil.

Quick facts

Book – “Dates and Kibbeh” (in Portuguese: Tâmaras e Quibes)
Isa Colli
ISBN 978-65-8652-248-8
Colli Books
Print version

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

Press Release

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