Monday, May 14, 2012

A world away

I See the Sun in Afghanistan by Dedie King (958.1 KiI 2011 PIC BK)is one in a series of books that looks to present a glimpse into the lives of children living in different parts of the world.

For a young girl living in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, daily activities include waking up very early to fetch water from a well located a short distance from her house, going to school in the morning, and doing chores in the afternoon.  Habiba appreciates the beauty of her home, the smells from her mother’s kitchen and presence of her family.  The importance of family and helping one another is demonstrated when Habiba’s family opens their home to an uncle, a soldier, who was has lost his legs and a set of homeless cousins, aunt and uncle, as a result of the war.  Habiba does wonder how it will turn out, “how can so many people live together in our small house?”  But it is accepted and life goes on as a meal is shared and everyone settles in for the night.

There is a gentleness in this story which is a little unexpected.  With the many horrible stories we hear about Afghanistan in the news, this one is about the everyday flow of life.  There is an author’s note at the end of the book that explains that Bamiyan is one the more peaceful and safe areas in this fraught country.   The illustrations by Judith Inglese also contribute to the calm quality of life for Habiba’s family. She uses a mix of media, photographs and pencil drawings which creates softness to the illustrations.

The book is written in both English and Dari and a glossary will help children with some of the unfamiliar Dari words incorporated in to the story.

I liked the story and the illustrations.  I liked that this wasn’t about the war and the political turmoil that mires down this country.

But – I wonder about the authenticity of the voice in this story.  This is not written by an Afghan but by an American author who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal in the 1960s. She may be familiar with this area and certainly feel she has an understanding of the culture but I wonder what an Afghan would think.  Are the values accurately portrayed?  Culture is finely nuanced and I wonder what has been missed.  I don’t know enough to know what isn’t right or if anything is misrepresented.

I will recommend this book, however and suggest it for students in grades 1 to 5 because learning about life in other parts of the world can be a way to look more closely at the way North Americans live.


Julie said...

Tammy, thank you for your thoughtful review. As the publisher of the "I See the Sun" series, I want to assure you that not only did people living in Afghanistan today read the story before it was published, but the translator is an Afghan native, currently a grad student in the US. Of course, there are subtle nuances of daily life in any locale. However, our intention with this series is to provide an introduction to a variety of cultures and languages that will foster curiosity and acceptance of our differences, while recognizing what we all share.

Tammy Flanders said...

Thanks for providing some background on the people involved with writing and producing this book and others in the series. I appreciate knowing such care was taken to accurately portray Afghan culture.
Thanks again for taking the time to drop me a line.

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