Doria, the female protagonist in Faïza Guène’s Just Like Tomorrow, is a first generation French-Moroccan living in an Arab immigrant compound called Paradise. Though her parents immigrated to France in hopes of financial and social improvement, and established themselves in what they thought to be a literal and figurative “Paradise”, they are far from the fiscal and emotional security of Paris. Paradise, inhabited by what seems to be only North African immigrants, is completely separate from the French city of Paris. Doria blames this separation—her inability to become truly French and life as a struggling immigrant—entirely on fate.
Ironically, in Paradise, there is no such thing as a happily ever after. “Fate stinks…basically, whatever you do you’ll always get screwed” (pg 11). No matter how hard Doria tries to fit the role of a young French girl, she will always fail. She fails in every arena: socially, academically, and emotionally. It is not only Doria who is unable to transition into being French, but also all of Paradise. Youssef ends up in Jail. Hamoudi is unable to find love. Yasmina loses her job at the Formula 1 motel. However, there is a noticeable difference between the financial and social failures of the parents and the failures of their children. Yasmina, and the other immigrants her age, have a fear of the French. They are intimidated by the language and flee to the comfort of the bled. In the face of their French counterparts, as seen when Doria and Yasmina receive a letter detailing the arrival of Doria’s half brother, Yasmina is embarrassed. She cannot read the letter, as it is written in French. This intimidation makes it impossible to ever assimilate. It is not only fate that keeps the original immigrants from succeeding in French society. They do not know how to act in this society, and have a fear of learning how.
The youth, however, those who were born into Paradise, seem to know what it takes to be French—what it takes to be Western—yet are doomed by Fate. Unlike her Moroccan parents, Doria is neither French, nor African. “She appears to be lost; she appears to be somewhere else” (pg 37). She tries to establish a place for herself in this Western society, yet she ends up “identifying with this total basket case who’s running a high fever and keeps hallucinating because she has fallen off her camel” (pg 51). She has no control over fate. No matter how many films she watches or how much effort she puts into her Civilization Studies, she will fail. This separation for the world in which she so wishes to belong is quite possibly why Doria appears to be so depressed. Mrs. Burlaud searches for a reason to Doria’s emotional struggles, and even tries to blame them on her unknown half brother, yet this depression may very well stem from the fact that she is stuck in Paradise, with Paris mocking her from only a few metro stops away.
The parents of this generation have certain expectations about success in France. To Yasmina, success is “a swivel chair on wheels” (pg 86). Their children, however, are more realistic, and understand just how divided they are from Western culture. They know that they cannot change division, and thus do not put forth any effort to. “It’s like most of them don’t think it’ll make any difference and our futures are screwed up anyways” (pg 57). The parents turn to God for help; the children know that God, and fate, is ultimately against them. There is no way to trust God in a situation where one is fated to fail. In fact, turning to God for help is almost as pointless as turning to the French. “We worry about the future, but what’s the point? We might not even have one” (pg 14).