Words in the Dust

by Trent Reedy
ages: 12+
First sentence: “I traced the letters in the dust with my finger, spelling out my name: Zulaikha.”
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I wanted this novel to be soaring. To be engrossing. To be a picture of an Afghani people that is noble and honorable and interesting.

What I got was a nice book.

There’s nothing wrong with nice books; nice books get kids interested in different ways of living, enabling them to see how the other isn’t always strange and unusual, but often is more familiar than we give them credit for. And I have to give Reedy kudos for bringing the story of an Afghani girl during the time right after the Taliban fell and the U.S. troops were coming in to readers outside of Afghanistan. But, there was a deeper, darker story to be told here; so much was just glossed over, and by doing that, the story suffered.

Oh, I know why: this book is geared toward middle grade readers, and the darker story would make this an adult book. And perhaps, I really didn’t want the dark story: the story of pigheaded men, and wrong choices made for girls, and limitations on women in their society. But, going in, I wanted a book to honor the complexities of Islam and the Afghani culture, and felt that this book just gave me the same old white, Christian, U.S. perspective: there are good Afghanis, there are narrow-minded Afghanis, and mostly what we need to do is help the women and children get education.

Been there, done that many, many times.

This sounds like I had a much more negative reaction to the book than I did. I didn’t hate it, and I do think it’s a worthwhile story to be told. It just wasn’t the story I was hoping for when I picked it up.

2 thoughts on “Words in the Dust

  1. Hmmm. I rather liked this one, but I can see your points. It is still one of the few books about this culture, and certainly good enough to inclue in a lot of middle grade libraries. There just needs to be more!


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