Monday, April 22, 2013

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Words in the Dust transports the reader to a village in Afghanistan and into the life of a girl born with a cleft palate. Zulaikha does not have an easy life with a stepmother who doesn't care much for her and brothers to take care of. She is not allowed to go to school and constantly told that she will never marry because of her facial deformity. When American soldiers see her and offer to repair her cleft palate she sees it as her chance to be "normal." The author, an American soldier who served in Afghanistan, captures the heartbreaks of Zulaikha and her sister, who goes through with an arranged marriage with some unhappy consequences. It's more than a story about a girl getting an operation—it's about a girl awakening to the possibilities that an education might bring her. I enjoyed the book a lot, and the middle school kids who read it this year loved it. For most, it was their first exposure to a culture very different from their own and they enjoyed the story and learned from it as well. Highly recommended for middle schoolers.

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