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Under the Persimmon Tree Hardcover – July 14, 2005

23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8 -When her father and brother are taken by the Taliban and her mother and baby brother are killed in a bombing raid during the Afghan war in October 2001, Najmah begins an arduous journey across the border to Peshawar, Pakistan. There, she meets up with an American woman, Nusrat, who has been conducting a school for refugee children while she waits for her husband, Faiz, who has returned to his native country to open medical clinics. For most of the story, the narration alternates between Najmah and Nusrat, allowing readers to see the war's effect on both of their lives. Only when they meet can they come to terms with their losses and move on. However, readers may feel unsatisfied with the ending. Having cared for the characters and been involved in their lives, they will want to know what happens to them. The use of an American allows the author to provide a clearer description of this unfamiliar world, but because Nusrat is a grown woman, her concerns may be of less interest to readers than those of Najmah, an enterprising and enormously courageous girl. Still, Staples brings the world of the refugee camp to life. Middle grade readers and the adults who teach them will welcome this fascinating glimpse into a world about which far too little has been written.-Kathleen Isaacs, formerly at Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. In the mountains of northern Afghanistan after 9/11, Najmah watches in horror as the brutal Taliban kidnap her father and older brother. Will they ever return home? When her mother and baby brother die in an American air raid, she stops speaking, and, disguised as a boy, makes a perilous journey to a refugee camp in Pakistan. In a parallel narrative, Nusrat (her American name was Elaine), who converted to Islam when she met Faiz in New York, has set up a rough school for the refugees. She has had no news of Faiz, her husband, since he left to establish a clinic in the north. The two stories come together when Najmah and Nusrat meet in the camp, where they wait in anguish for news of the people they love. Staples weaves a lot of history and politics into her story (including information about the Taliban's suppression of women), and she includes a map, a glossary, and brief background notes to give even more context. But as with her Newbery Honor Book, Shabanu (1989), it's the personal story, not the history, that compels as it takes readers beyond the modern stereotypes of Muslims as fundamentalist fanatics. There are no sweet reunions, but there's hope in heartbreaking scenes of kindness and courage. For another book about post-9/11 Afghanistan, suggest Catherine Stine's Refugees (2004). Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 1010L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (August 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374380252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374380250
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,703,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By The Careful Collector on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Under the Persimmon Tree is a look at life in Afghanistan/Pakistan in the months immediately following September 11, 2001 through the eyes of two women. One is Najmah, a young Afghan girl left alone with her pregnant mother when her father and brother are conscripted by the Taliban. Her mother and the baby are killed during an air raid over their village a short time later. Now Najmah must travel to Peshwar to find her father and brother, and save their land.

The other is Nusrat, an American teacher, convert of Islam, who came to Pakistan when her Afghan husband Faiz decided to return to his home to help those suffering because of the war. Their stories converge when Najmah is brought to Nusrat's home in Peshwar, where she teaches a school for refugee children. Together they seek answers about their families, and their future.

This is a heartbreaking story, with a solid core of hope and strength. There is no happy ending, yet the future does not seem bleak. This timely and thought-provoking book is sure to be a contender for this year's Newbery Medal.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Team LitPick on August 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The year is 2001. Afghanistan is in the middle of a war between the Taliban and the US- backed Northern Alliance. The story follows two extraordinary people: Najmah and Nusrat. Najmah, whose name means "star," has lost almost all of her family to the fighting. Her only remaining relative is an uncle, whose sole aim is to steal the land that her father wanted her so much to protect. Najmah has no choice, but to accompany a family of travelers, as they are the only people, it seems, that care about her. The other main character is a woman by the name of Nusrat, an American living in Peshawar, Pakistan. Her school for refugee children under her Persimmon Tree keeps her mind away from her husband, who is working in northern Afghanistan as a doctor. Through a perilous journey, Najmah comes to live with Nusrat, and their lives entwine, as Najmah studies under the persimmon tree with other children who have seen more hardship in their young lives than Nusrat has seen in her entire lifetime.

This book was an amazing testament to those who must give up their lifestyle and possessions to warfare and hardship. "Under the Persimmon Tree" gives a face to all those who surrender all individuality to the western media, and are just masses of people in their eyes. I could not put the book down. I received the book on a Friday evening, and was done by Saturday morning. The way Suzanne Fisher Staples writes is both knowledgeable and empathetic. Her firsthand experience of the change of Afghanistan from a cultural center to a barren wasteland translates very clearly into the amazing and true-to-life storyline. Ms. Staples lived in Afghanistan from the time before the Soviet Invasion that changed the country forever to the time of the Taliban takeover.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Julie Hahnke on September 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This story unfolds through two perspectives: a young girl in Afghanistan and an American woman living in Pakistan, in the months immediately following 9/11. Their seemingly contradictory lifestyles share surprising similarities in their experiences, suffering and hopes, as the story draws these two together.

The narrative weaves a delicate path, sensitive amidst the hardship and loss of the period, and provides a convincing and compelling explanation for each character's motives.

The story climaxes with an ending that is poignantly true to its characters, despite the reader's wishes, yet is satisfying in its own brutal realism.

Surely a Newbery contender!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I felt that the story was overall really well done and the ideas were great. However I really wish that the author could have gone into more detail about what happened to the characters in the end. I also wish that the reader could hear more about what was happening to Nur and

Baba-jan. I felt like someparts were to long and some too short and I didn't feel very connected to the character. I think that the story has a lot of power but the way the story is described does not.
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By civil class on March 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was a stimulating story about two women living in the Middle East.

First, there is Najmah. Najmah is a young Afghan girl who lives with her pregnant mother, father, and older brother. Early on in the book, Najmah's brother and father are extracted by the Taliban. Najmah is then forced to take care of the land and her mother.
Her mother and Habib, her new baby brother are killed by an air raid on their village. Najmah survives and is taken in by Akhtar. Akhatar, his wife, and his two sons, and the newest addition, Najmah, attempt to travel to Peshwar, where they hope to become safe.
Najmah is faced with important decisions as she longs to search for her brother and father. Her journey eventually leads to Preshwar where she searches for her loved ones.

Nusrat is a American girl who converts to Islam. After marrying her husband, Faiz, they soon move to Afghanistan. Faiz is a doctor and wishes to help with the victims in Afghanistan. After arriving in Peshwar, Faiz decides it is safer for Nusrat to stay there. Faiz then travels to his new occupation.
Nusrat has not heard from her husband in months and the fear of his death reigns over her, However, she stays strong and does not let herself think such thoughts.

The two worlds collide when Najmah reaches Peshwar. Najmah attends Nusrats school that she runs in her garden, under the persimmon tree. After being in the school for some time the two girls began to converse. Together they then try find the ones they hold dear to their heart.

This story is one that will touch your life forever. It helps you to see the happiness in your life and embrace what you have. This book was a exquisite picture into a life full of fear and uncertainty. It is a book I would recommend.
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