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Words in the Dust

by Trent Reedy

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, Inc., 2011
264 pages
ISBN: trade 978𢠧45-261258

Ages 12-15

Author Trent Reedy, a U.S. Army reservist who served in Afghanistan in 2004-2005, has penned a novel set during the first years of the U.S. war in that country and rich with the day-to-day details of young teen Zulaikha抯 life. A chance spotting by a soldier leads to an offer by the U.S. Army to fix Zulaikah抯 cleft lip and palate. And a chance meeting with an old friend of her mother抯 leads to the woman抯 offer to teach Zulaikah to read, starting with some of the classic Afghan poetry Zulaikah抯 mother loved. Reedy抯 story unfolds in Zulaikah抯 voice, which vividly describes the people and events shaping her life. Zulaikah抯 mother was killed by the Taliban for being an educated woman. Her father抯 second wife is stern and demanding, but also, to Zulaikah抯 surprise, an ally in her desire to get an education. And Zulaikah抯 beloved older sister is about to be married梐 match that is good business for her family. Zulaikah抯 observations shed light on the difficult circumstances for girls and women in Afghanistan, and also reveal the challenging relationship between U.S. military personnel and Afghan civilians. Even with their well-meaning efforts and attempts to bridge the language and cultural gaps, the soldiers Zulaikah and her family interact with miss the mark so often, and the resulting disconnect is palpable in this vivid account of the people and events.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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