Saia Stueng

Tanja Norbye
Saia Stueng: Hamburgerprinseassa – Eallá dušše oktii. Youth novel, Davvi Girji, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


Hamburgerprinseassa – Eallá dušše oktii (“The Hamburger Princess”, not translated into English) is a youth novel in Northern Sámi about Máren. She is 17 years old and in her last year of high school. Máren tries to endure her day-to-day school life as best as she can. She is struggling with difficult circumstances at home, which have led to her move in with Máhtte. Máhtte is an older man she has a relationship with, and her only friend.  


At school, Máren feels like she doesn’t fit in and experiences ostracism and social stigma. Behind her, there’s also a darkness, a trauma her mother has experienced, which will come to affect Máren. Stueng takes us to a new, important topic – bullying – and how cyberbullying can harm a person. The reader can feel the fear, shame, and contempt as Máren hides in the outhouse after watching the video in which her mother is subjected to a sexual assault. This trauma also explains why both her mother and she struggle mentally, and it also explains why the poor relationship between mother and daughter. 


Even though Máren is struggling both at home and at school, she shows that she has determination and plans for the future. Hamburgerprinseassa – Eallá dušše oktii is a youth novel that takes the reader into the day-to-day life of a young Sámi person. With the EDO or YOLO mentality, Stueng allows us to get to know Máren and her ups and downs.  


The reader gets a close and personal perspective on how eating disorders can dominate thoughts and behaviours, and how something as fundamental as food can become a tool for dealing with emotional challenges. Stueng’s depiction is both raw and sensitive, providing a valuable contribution to the understanding of eating disorders among young people. 


The author has excellent storytelling skills and handles important themes that young people can relate to and learn from. Saia Stueng’s has a remarkable ability to capture the essence of adolescence. She portrays Máren’s internal and external struggles with an authenticity that not only makes the reader understand but also feel the protagonist’s pain and hope. Through a language vibrating with youthful energy yet carrying the weight of maturity, Stueng conveys the complexity of growing up in contemporary society. The drive in Máren’s ups and downs keeps the reader captivated in Sápmi from the dark times of winter through to the festive celebrations of Easter. 


The novel challenges the Sámi community by addressing difficult and yet recognisable themes such as eating disorders, self-hatred, same-sex love, trauma, sexual abuse, and cyberbullying. The book is an important voice of the present, addressing not only specific challenges in Sámi youth life but also the universal challenges that young people encounter in their search for their place in the world. 

Saia Stueng (born in 1993) from Karasjok, Norway, holds an MA in Sámi literature from UiT The Arctic University of Norway. She is currently a doctoral research fellow at the Sámi University of Applied Sciences. She has worked as a Sámi teacher at secondary school level and has participated in the Sámi Writers Association’s and the Sámi Parliament’s writers’ programme. Stueng made her debut in 2017 with Hamburgerprinseassa. Hamburgerprinseassa – Eallá dušše oktii is the second book about the main character Máren and it can be read independently of the first.