Saturday 18 February 2012

49. Words In The Dust by Trent Reedy

Words In The Dust by Trent Reedy
Published February 2012 Frances Lincoln

From the publisher:

Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven out of Afghanistan. She hopes for a good relationship with her hard stepmother. And she hopes one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft lip fixed. Zulaikha knows that all will be provided for her, Inshallah - God willing. Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to the village, promising not just new opportunities, but surgery to fix Zulaikha's face. These could mean a whole new life - but can Zulaikha dare to hope they will come true? Trent Reedy's breathtaking first novel, based on his experiences serving with the US Army in Afghanistan, shows astonishing insight into the different cultural attitiudes of the traditional people and their peace-keepers, and, in a land where hidebound traditions clash with an emerging desire for freedom, offers humanity and hope.

The blurb of this book only gives away one of the stories told in this book.  Yes, the main character is Zulaikha. Yes, the story is about her having the opportunity to have her cleft lip fixed by the American soldiers. The bigger story is that of Afghani life seen through the eyes of this 13 year old girl.

Zulaikha's mother was killed by the Taliban for being in the possesion of books.  Zulaikha and her sister Zeynab have never been to school and they cannot read or write.  Zeynab is content with her life, and has no desire to learn to read or write, she is just waiting for the day that she will be married and will fulfill her dream to become a wife.  Zulaikha dreams of going to school and getting an education, but that is not possible for her, until she meets an old friend of her mothers who becomes her secret tutor.

While Zulaikha is learning to read and waiting for her operation, Zeynab has had a husband chosen for her, a man older than her own father.  We see the ceremony and tradition that lead up to the marriage, and Zeynab finds out that being a wife is not quite the life she thought it would be, and her husband is not the kind man her family thought he was.

For the most part this book is suitable for upper primary readers, but there is one event that is quite confronting and this make it a better choice for teenage readers.

Who will like this book: Girls age 13+
Read it if you like: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples

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