Friday, November 4, 2011

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

The setting of this book is in Afghanistan, and I gave it a rating of four out of five. Zulaikha was born with a cleft lip which causes her great embarrassment. Great hope arises when some American doctors offer to fix her lip, and she prays that the surgery will make her pretty and normal. She meets Meena, her deceased mother's teacher, and Meena would like to teach Zulaikha to read and write. Zulaikha fears that her father and stepmother will object if they discover what she is doing. In addition, her father arranges a marriage for her sister and best friend, Zeynab. Zeynab will become the third wife of her husband, and she hopes to have many children and make her husband proud. This announcement makes Zulaikha very happy. During this time, the Americans have moved into the region to fight the Taliban forces. The Americans bring a mixture of hope and hate to the citizens of Afghanistan. In the end, the characters learn that beauty isn't everything and that wishes don't always come true.

The exposition and early part of the plot didn't really grab me. However, the personal conflicts became more interesting with Zulaikha's planned surgery and hopes to read, her sister's marriage, the birth of her stepmother's new baby, and the presence of the American army. The author did a great job of telling the story from Zulaikha's point of view and describing her thoughts and feelings. I had some problems with names; I couldn't keep track of which names were siblings, friends, and extended family (step family, aunts, etc.). It wasn't a big problem. This book offered a view into the beliefs of another culture and their mixed feelings about our culture.

Lexile level from 670

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