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Shooting Kabul [Kindle Edition]

N. H. Senzai
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Fadi never imagined he’d start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles from home in Kabul—and half a world away from his missing six-year-old sister, Mariam.

Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family, and as the events of September 11 unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in war-torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize of a trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s own experience fleeing Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in 1979, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—In July 2001, as 11-year-old Fadi and his family hastily board a truck to begin their escape from Afghanistan, six-year-old Mariam lets go of her brother's hand and is tragically left behind. Their arrival in San Francisco is bittersweet as they are all too concerned about Mariam to appreciate their newfound safety and freedom. Fadi struggles with integrating himself into American middle school culture, eventually finding solace in the photography club. Still, he is most concerned with the part he played in losing Mariam and getting her back. A photography contest with the prize of a trip to India seems to be his best means of finding a way back to Afghanistan to help in the search for his sister. This is a sweet story of family unity, and readers will learn about Afghani Pukhtun culture. Occasionally Senzai relies too heavily on telling when showing would be more effective. Also, at times the dialogue seems inauthentic because it contains more historical detail than would be likely among people of the same background. The relevance of occasional references to E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (S & S, 1970), which Fadi is reading, is never truly clear. That said, this is a worthwhile book about the immigrant experience in general, and Afghani culture specifically. Fadi is a likable hero who learns from his mistakes, and whose talent allows him to make a unique contribution to finding his sister, for the inevitable happy ending.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Beginning in the months before 9/11, this sensitive, timely debut follows an Afghan family's emigration to San Francisco. After receiving a PhD in the U.S. and returning to Kabul to help rebuild the country, Fadi's father has grown disillusioned with the Taliban (“These are not true Muslims”), and he pays human traffickers to smuggle his family into Pakistan. During the terrifying flight, Fadi's six-year-old sister, Mariam, is lost. After fruitless, life-risking searches, the grief-stricken family tries to begin anew in California, while overseas efforts to find Mariam continue. Conversations often feel purposeful as Senzai educates readers about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Afghan cultural diversity, and the Qur'an's fundamental messages of peace. But she writes with powerful, realistic detail about Fadi's family's experiences, particularly the prejudice Fadi finds at school after planes hit the Twin Towers and the guilt he suffers over Mariam's disappearance. An abrupt but satisfying contrivance brings this illuminating docu-novel to a joyful conclusion, and young readers may well want to move on to the appended resources to learn more. Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read addition to children's literature! January 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am often very kind in my assessment of particular books because of their purpose. Such is the case with "Shooting Kabul" by newcomer to writing, N. H. Senzai, who grew up in San Francisco and Saudi Arabia. She tells the reader it is a story that had to be told, one that continued to niggle at the back of her head.

"Shooting Kabul" is loosely based on her husband as a child and his family leaving Afghanistan because of the Taliban. It involves degrees in agriculture earned in the United States and a return to Afghanistan to improve farming techniques. After the Taliban's return to primitivism and total control of government and culture, the family's efforts (and efforts of many other families) were no longer wanted. It became unsafe to stay, thus a dark-of-night escape to asylum in the United States.

But that's not why I gave this book five stars. The writing, plotting, characters, plot conflicts--all would rate four stars. Ends are too conveniently tied and plot events are manipulated. But guess what? I don't care. What makes this book stand out and why it gets five stars requires a list. Here's why "Shooting Kabul" is a five-star book for children 9-12 and any older audience who wants to know more about Afghan culture.

1. The novel provides an up-close look at a typical Afghan family, actually, a Pukhtun family. The Pukhtuns make up the largest ethnic group of the Afghan peoples, comprising 42 percent of the population. The reader learns a little about religion, language, food, daily habits, family life. A "little" means just enough to weave into the story without overdoing it. The glossary of unfamiliar names and Afghan factos is included in the back of the book, as well as a further reading list.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You need a box of tissues at hand. July 30, 2010
By Sharif
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fadi is a sweet Afghan boy who adores photography, the novel FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER, and his family. Fleeing from the Taliban in a truck with other escapees, his family loses his little sister Mariam. It is too dangerous to turn back and find Mariam, which causes heartache for the whole family. Settling in the United States in a post 9/11 atmosphere, Fadi rockily adjusts to life in California. Money is tight, classmates are bigots and, most importantly, he misses Mariam. An opportunity presents itself: there is a chance to find Mariam, and Fadi is determined to do whatever it takes to save his little sister in a Claudia-like/Mixed-Up Files fashion. Warning: You may need a box of tissue at hand while reading this. This was beautifully written and it's something I would read again.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Fadi Nurzai and his family had no choice but to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban had completed their rise to power, and rather than bring all the good they talked about, they provided nothing but bloodshed. Fadi's father, Habib, had secured the family safe passage to America in the summer of 2001 as long as they could cross the border. The plan was to meet a truck that would carry them across to Peshawar, Pakistan. Fadi was in charge of his six-year-old sister, Mariam, while his older sister, Noor, helped with their sick mother, Zafoona. All was going according to plan until the Taliban made an unexpected appearance, and in the turmoil that ensued, the unthinkable happened --- Mariam is left behind.

After a few desperate attempts to return and find her, the Nurzais are forced to fly to America and receive asylum. While staying with relatives in San Francisco, Fadi must go on with life. He begins middle school with the realization that leaving Mariam behind was his fault, and he will do anything to get her back. As Habib, Zafoona, Noor and Fadi plot how to return to Afghanistan to find Mariam, they are dealt another devastating blow: September 11, 2001. They watch in horror as terrorists attack the World Trade Center. After they learn that the people responsible are linked to terrorist groups within Afghanistan, any hope of returning to find Mariam is lost.

September 11th also makes it difficult for Fadi at school. Kids assume he is responsible for what happened in New York and go out of their way to make life miserable for him. So Fadi tries to find solace in the little things, especially photography. He is encouraged to join the photography club by his new friend, Anh, and stumbles upon the answer to his prayers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grabs interest and empathy October 18, 2010
A family of five escapes from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the dark of night. They throw themselves aboard a truck along with numbers of other desperate people, just minutes ahead of the patrolling Taliban. They are on their way to America. Only something unbearably horrible has happened: the youngest, six-year-old Mariam, did not make it aboard the truck--and there is no going back to get her.

Many stories start with an event that drives the rest of the story with its cry for resolution. This event, in the first pages of SHOOTING KABUL, grips the rest of the story with a barely containable wail for resolution. Yet Sensai manages to pace the everpresent anguish with the reality of any immigrant family adjusting to life in America in a very realistic and non-maudlin way.

The narrator of this story is Mariam's 11 year-old brother Fadi. Fadi let go of Mariam's hand as they were jumping in the truck and thus bears a heightened burden of guilt. His struggle to deal with his guilt as he tries to fit into his new life makes up the bulk of the story. The resolution is satisfying, evolving out of his strengths rather than his vulnerabilities..

This is a perfect book for middle school readers who like to read about people caught up in real, historically significant events, who are driven to understand more about their wider world. The tragedy that Fadi experiences will grab their interest and their empathy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable Story
I loved this book with its beautifully written perspectives that painted a picture in my mind. Its was a heartfelt story that must be read. Read more
Published 7 days ago by game rater
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book!
Published 11 days ago by Evelyn Blanchard
5.0 out of 5 stars Looks to be a good gift
Looking forward to reading it
Published 23 days ago by Beth Kleinstuber
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
I like this book because it shows persistence even in the most deadly of circumstances... recommend this book to kids age 10-14 because they should have learned that there are... Read more
Published 27 days ago by Laura C Barnhardt Cech
2.0 out of 5 stars it may not be good but it is a must read
Shooting Kabul is about a family who grew up in Afghanistan during a time when the Taliban and Afghanistan were at war. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bina Shah
2.0 out of 5 stars Shooting Kabul Book Review
My class read Shooting Kabul as a read aloud. Shooting Kabul was about an Afghan family escaping the dangerous country of Afghanistan, moving into the United States, and the fight... Read more
Published 1 month ago by K2
2.0 out of 5 stars Full of Facts but Lacks Action
Shooting Kabul is based on a true story about The Nurzai Family raised in Afghanistan, who is frightened, like many, of the rising Taliban. Read more
Published 1 month ago by logan
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book and a Hug: Shooting Kabul
Life as Fadi knows it ends the night he and his family make their narrow escape from Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban rule; it is the same night that his six-year-old sister Mariam... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mme. Librarian
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing true story
Fadi is a boy who lost his sister on the way to freedom. He thinks it is his fault that he lost his sister. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Book Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great to have personal copy for Battle of the Books.
Published 3 months ago by KCamp
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More About the Author

I grew up speaking two languages, balancing life lived on the edge of two cultures, and, happily, two cuisines--tandoori chicken and hot dogs, grilled side by side on the 4th of July. I got on a plane for the first time at two months, in Chicago, IL, where I was born, and have been travelling ever since. I grew up in San Francisco, Jubail, Saudi Arabia, and attended boarding school in London, England where I was voted "most likely to lead a literary revolution" due to my ability to get away with reading comic books in class. I've hiked across the Alps, road-tripped through Mexico, swum with barracudas in the Red Sea, taken a train across the Soviet Union, floated down the Nile, eaten gumbo in New Orleans and sat in contemplation at the Taj Mahal. Now I've landed back home in San Francisco where I live with my husband, a professor of political science, my son, and a cat who owns us.

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