Sunday, 4 September 2016

Words In The Dust by Trent Reedy

Words In The Dust by Trent Reedy 
Published by Arthur A Levine in 2011. Audiobook edition, narrated by Ariana Delawari, published by Scholastic Audio in 2011.

How I got this book:
Audiobook downloaded from AudioSYNC

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Zulaikha knows all will be provided for her "Inshallah," God willing. Then she meets Meena, who offers to teach her the Afghan poetry she taught her late mother. And the Americans come to her village, promising not just new opportunities and dangers, but surgery to fix her face. These changes could mean a whole new life for Zulaikha but can she dare to hope her dreams will come true?'

I will admit to having had preconceptions about Words In The Dust which I am glad to say were completely unfounded. A book about an Afghan girl, written by an American soldier? I expected lots of gungho America-saves-the-day scenes and Western-viewpoint criticism of Afghan life. Instead, I read a detailed and thoughtful novel which manages to be sensitive to both Afghan and American cultures without judging. The minutiae of daily life in such an arid, dusty country is fascinating and I appreciate the extensive research Reedy must have undertaken in order to bring Zulaikha and her family convincingly to life.

In my audiobook edition, Ariana Delawari does a great job of the narration and I liked that common words - salaam (hello), taschakor (thank you), bale (ok) - are spoken in Dari so by the end of my listen, I had learned a little of this Afghan language. (Bale is almost identical in sound and meaning to the Spanish vale - perhaps due to the historic Moorish occupation of Spain? I digress!)

Words In The Dust is a young adult novel, but I rarely felt that it was too young a book for me and I would happily recommend it to adults who would like to discover Afghanistan. There was occasionally too much recapping for my taste, but us grown-ups would definitely be missing out if we assumed this to be just a story for teenagers!

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