Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy
Words in the Dust is the story of Zulaikha, a young girl from post Taliban Afghanistan. Things in Afghanistan are difficult for her. Her father's wife is pregnant and very mean to Zulaikha and her sister. The two of them need to do chores all day long. There is nothing for them to do but cook, clean and look after their little brothers. There is no school because girls are not allowed to go to school. For Zeynab her sister, this is fine because all she dreams of is the day she will get married and have children. To make things even more difficult, Zulaikha has a cleft palate which leaves her disfigured and causes the local children to be quite cruel to her. Zulaikha takes small comfort in learning to read in secret with a friend of her mothers. However the cost of lying to her family is something she constantly worries about.
Things start to look up for the family when her father's welding business is offered the opportunity to build a new school and a U.S. army base. This means more money, more word and more contacts with richer Afghanistan people. This contact with the army also opens up the possibility of Zulaikha's having a simple operation to fix her face. With all of these changes, Zulaikha and her family must learn to adapt and hope for a better future for the children of Afghanistan.
This book was written by a solider on active duty in Afghanistan which I found quite unique. I found the descriptions of the country and what it is like to live in a place filled with war to be incredibly sad and depressing. The thought of no education for girls is so hard to come to terms with and I loved how the story that was told through a female character growing up in a world where men control so much. Zulaikha's courage to face a life that offered such little hope was quite remarkable considering how she was raised. I'm not sure how many of the kids in my class would push through this book. I found the many different names and customs hard to keep up with, and I'm not sure kids would work through it. It would be a great book to use as a literature circle so that you could discuss the events as they were taking place in the book.