December 29, 2010

Words in the Dust, A Story of Afghanistan

Posted by at 4:44 am in Reads | Permalink

WordsInTheDust Welcome to Scholastic Booktalks where we recommend brand new Scholastic books that we think you will love. Today's booktalk is: Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy.

Imagine living in a world where you've never been to school, never ridden in a car, or seen a TV. Zulaikha's life as a girl in An Daral, Afghanistan is difficult enough between all the chores she must do every day and the way her stepmother orders her around. But Zulaikha also must live with a cleft lip and twisted teeth that stick out enough for all the neighborhood boys to torment her. They call her "Donkeyface" and throw dirt at her. Even her own brothers, whom she cares for every day, disrespect her.

All Zulaikha wants is to be normal, maybe even pretty like her sister, and marry a handsome man who will take good care of her. But when American soldiers notice her and offer to fly her in a helicopter and give her an operation to fix her lip, will all of Zulaikha's problems immediately be solved?

This book is actually based on a true story. Here is the author, Trent Reedy, describing his inspiration for writing the book.

"In 2004 and 2005, when I was serving with the army in support of the reconstruction effort in western Afghanistan, I was often dismayed when I saw the aftermath of the terrible injustices women and girls had suffered under the oppression of the brutal Taliban. . . When my unit encountered a young girl named Zulaikha who suffered from a cleft lip and crooked teeth, we knew we had to help. My fellow soldiers and I pooled our money to pay for her flight to our main base in Afghanistan, where an army doctor had volunteered to conduct the needed corrective surgery. I was happy, feeling that we had really made a direct, positive difference. Throughout all of my encounters with Zulaikha, I was impressed by her courage and dignity. She covered her birth defect, but otherwise she met our gaze, answered our questions, and did not shy away from us, even though I imagine we could be quite frightening with our body armor and weapons. For me, Zulaikha began to represent the indomitable spirit of all Afghans and of Afghan women in particular.

After her surgery, Zulaikha's problems with her upper lip, teeth, and nose had vanished almost as if she had always been completely normal. Her physical transformation was amazing, but perhaps more striking was her emotional change. She no longer hid her mouth in shame. The very best moment of my time in Afghanistan was seeing Zulaikha smile."

Read Words in the Dust for an honest and brutal look into the human faces behind the war in Afghanistan.

— Melissa, Scholastic Booktalker

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  1. Whopper24

    I’d love Lucas Crickshank,(Internet sensation FRED!, to be interviewed on the STACKS, make another comment if you agree with me!

    Reply
  2. Mistwolf13

    this book is definitely on my list of books to read! it makes me really sad to hear about what people are going through in foreign places and that so little people act concerned.

    Reply
  3. HermioneHJG

    For some reason, when I was reading this entry yesterday, the paragraph that tells about Trent Reedy’s inspiration for the book didn’t show up. But I just read the paragraph, and I was right; what happens to the girl in the book is based on a true story and it IS possible! I didn’t know that until now!

    Reply
  4. ilovepercyandmax

    Sounds like a good book. In Afghanistan and Iraq and other countries like that there are kids who really are suffering. Girls can’t even go to school! I would really like to read this book. It sounds like a touching story.

    Reply
  5. HermioneHJG

    Wow, this sounds like a really good book! Usually I wouldn’t be interested in a book like this, you know, that takes place in another country. But the fact that this is a book about something that make sense, and something that seems so realistic, and even possible, makes me interested in it. I hope I find it in the library so that I can check it out!

    Reply
  6. Whopper24

    Whenever someone talks about Afghanistan, it makes me want to cry, for all the people who died there, and for the people who aren’t as lucky as we are. This book is about all the work this girl has to do, and having an operation on her lip. This could be a sad book.

    Reply