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The Breadwinner Paperback – May 12, 2015
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The Breadwinner is the kind of book that really anyone can read. Your age doesn't necessarily matter, since this book is written in a way that can transcend from eight to sixty year olds. But the writing wasn't what made this book impressive; the sheer character of Parvana herself, and the story she takes us along, is completely mindblowing. Sometimes, I had to stop myself and reread a section because it thrust me into disbelief. The things women had to go through under the rule of the Taliban - and STILL have to go through -.... it's just heartbreaking. This book serves not only to make us, as kids, aware of this difficult topic, but also spurs us to want to get involved. I was completely gripped the entire time while reading this book, and by the end of it, I was speechless. While, at some points, this is not the most engaging book per se, it is still a fascinating story that kids of all ages will enjoy.
The action is fairly quick, and I read it in one sitting. Your typical high school student will not complain as each chapter is short, and the pages turn quickly. You very early become endeared to Parvana, the protagonist through her interaction with her family members. As the book progresses you feel the pangs to continue.
A well written book for young adults. Similar to The Kite Runner.
Although the author is not from Afghanistan, she apparently interviewed many refugees, heard their stories, and wrote this, based on all those interviews. This is the first book in the series. Now, I will move on to the second, as I am curious to see what happens next.
Parvana and her family used to live in a big house, but the daily bombing, which has gone on for years, has destroyed almost everything they owned. Now they live in one room. Her father supports them by reading and writing letters for uneducated people. Even this existence is threatened when the Taliban break in and arrest her father for the crime of having gone to school in England. "Afghanistan doesn't need your foreign ideas," they tell him as they drag him off to prison.
Soon the family runs out of money and food, a desperate situation since Parvana, her mother, and her sisters can't be outside unless they're with a man. A neighbor woman comes up with an idea: Parvana can dress as a boy, because boys can come and go freely. She agrees, and wears the clothing of an older brother who died. Since she knows how to read, she earns money the same way her father did and becomes the family breadwinner.
Then the family gets exciting news--Parvana's older sister receives a proposal of marriage from the son of old family friends. They live in north Afghanistan, where there are no Taliban. A journey is quickly planned, but Parvana can't go because the friends know she is a girl. Her family can't let her secret get back to Kabul.
Parvana stays with the neighbor woman, but then bad news arrives: the Taliban have invaded the very city where Parvana's family went for the wedding. Now what will she do?
This book was a fast and absorbing read. The writing style is simple but the story is so powerful I could hardly put it down, and the spirit and resilience of Parvana and her family were inspirational.
Author Deborah Ellis visited Afghan refugee camps and talked with many girls like Parvana. She is donating the royalties from this book to Women for Women in Afghanistan, dedicated to improving the lives of women there. Read about current conditions in Afghanistan in this article.
Reading level: 10 and up. Parvana, her mother, and her father receive beatings, but the description is minimal. The girl witnesses a public punishment where men convicted as thieves each have one hand chopped off. No gory details, but it is a shocking moment.