Zulaikha lives in Afghanistan with her father, her step-mother and her brothers and sisters. She is one of the oldest children so she has a lot of jobs, like going to the market for food and helping take care of the babies. She doesn’t go to school although her mother taught her a few words before she died.
Zulaikha lives in a country at war in a culture that I don’t know very much about. I really liked reading her story because I felt like I was getting a look at a real person from Afghanistan, not a stereotype or a “made for TV” person. The author of this book is an American soldier who was stationed in an Afghan village helping build a school. He based Zulaikha on a real girl he met while he lived there.
I liked how this book didn’t give me what I expected. For example, at one point Zulaikha’s Dad is talking about how the Americans are coming to build a school. He knows that the village girls have never gone to school and that the idea is a very American one. He says, “School for boys. School for girls. School for goats. Who cares as long as they pay?” (page 16) The fact that he supports the building of the school doesn’t really tell you whether or not he thinks girls should go to school – it just tells you he needs paid to build something so his family can eat. That seems very truthful to me. In fact, Zulaikha’s Dad is one of my favorite characters in the book. That doesn’t mean everything he did was likable…it means I liked him as a character because he seemed authentic.
You will cry sometimes while you read this book. Very sad things happen to Zulaikha and the people in her family. Sometimes you will think, “No! no! Don’t do that!” or “How could a Dad let that happen? or “How could a person be so cruel?” But then you remember that you are reading about a girl that lives in the middle of a war in a different country in a culture alot different from our own. How would you know what you would think or how you would act unless you lived there too? I liked thinking about that after I was done with the book, and I think you will too.
Sometimes good things happen, things that make you feel really good about how people can persevere even in very terrible circumstances. There is one character in particular who seemed heartless; a charcter I didn’t like at all, who turned out to be sacrificing her own dreams to secretly help Zulaikha. I ended up really, really liking this character. I especially liked watching how she and Zulaikha grew together after realizing they could work together for the same goal. Sometimes when you read a book friendships can be really predictable; this one took me by surprise and I liked that.Print This Post