Kids of Kabul Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War

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I had the privilege to hear Deborah Ellis speak at my bookstore last fall. One of the things she said that stuck with me was how one of her gifts was being able to talk to anyone. This gift is in full evidence in Kids of Kabul.

Kids of Kabul is a collection of interviews that Ellis conducted with kids between the ages of 10 and 18 who live in Kabul, Afghanistan. She interviewed both boys and girls and got them to tell her how they got to Kabul (most subjects were born elsewhere and came to Kabul to escape the fighting), how their lives were different from when the Taliban was in power, what their future goals were, and what they wanted for Afghanistan. She even included the story of one mentally disabled girl (she's probably autistic, though there isn't money or interest in giving her a proper diagnosis or treatment) who can't speak for herself.

These kids come from all walks of life, from the relatively privileged daughter of a women's rights activist to the boy living in a refugee camp. Some stories are tragic, like the 14-year-old girl in prison for running away from an abusive marriage, and some stories are hopeful, like the boy with the bad legs who is getting treatment and education. I want to mention all of the kids, because their interviews are so wonderful - how can I not mention the girl who wants to memorize the Qu'aran so she can go on a game show and make money to support her family How can I forget the kids in Scouts that work together to make a difference

One of my favourite interviews is the first. Faranoz is 14, and everybody says that she has "too much intelligence." She really didn't know this before, but since she's been going to a kind of school at somebody's house, she knows that she is smart. Now she can read, and when people say that she has no rights, she can point to books and say that, "here it is! It is written down! The law must be respected. Religion does not give men the right to beat us, and now we can prove it." When she grows up she would like to be a doctor - because what else can you do with such intelligence

Quite simply, these kids blew me away. Their stories are heartbreaking, inspiring and tragic - some of them all at once. These kids realize the value of education, even when their families don't always think the same way. The girls realize that things must change in regards to cultural attitudes towards women in their country, and some of the boys do, too. Everybody wants to live in peace and be safe. One of the biggest themes in this book is hope. Most of these kids know that peace is up to them, and they want to make a difference.

Kids of Kabul is perfect for schools and libraries, and I know they'll snap it up. But really, this book is so accessible and wonderful that it truly deserves a much broader readership.


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