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

  1. Ella

    I really think I should read this book. I read the Breadwinner Trilogy by Deborah Ellis. It is along the same lines about a girl in Afghanistan. Very touching and sad, and yet inspiring and interesting.
    This new book is on my “books to read” list.

  2. The Geese

    I’m going to get that out of the library online thing. Or the normal library. or the book store. Or something.

  3. Nishath

    When I hear about Afghanistan I feel so sad. Think about all those people who died and don’t have enough food and water. I came from a place near Afghanistan so I know how it feels.

  4. jaybird3

    my uncle is in the army and he was fighting in afghanistan he is at my house at this very moment though

  5. laura

    that poor girl but luckly they helped her was very sad at the beigin but after i read all the paragraph i was happy

  6. Twilightgl101

    that book looks like it would be good!….. i just hope its not sad! :( …:D i cant wait to read it!!!!

  7. ancientlacrosse18

    it sounds like a really really really really good book ill go to my library and get the book

  8. m1998

    I really think that is a really good story were did you find out abuot that story can you tell me.

  9. Sainta

    doesn’t sound so real but it seems like its a good book to read and find out how some other people may live…

  10. Whopper24

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

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