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Under the Persimmon Tree Paperback – April 1, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Realistic fiction for tweens
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 7 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 1010L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 281 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312377762
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312377762
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Afghanistan is a land of war and poverty in which there are rarely any happy endings. How can you tell its story with honesty, sensitivity and realism without leaving the reader depressed, angry or apathetic? Suzanne Fisher Staples, who worked in the region as a journalist, has found a way.

This exquisitely beautiful book changed me in ways I am having a hard time nailing down. Yes, I learned far more than I knew about this ancient culture, but that is only a part of it. I know what it didn't do. it didn't leave me more grateful that I am not living in a war-torn, impoverished nation, and it hasn't made me re-think my political or religious preferences. The change has been a quickening -- an awakening that transcends specifics.

I struggled to find a word that would describe the tone of Staples' prose. Poetic seems too bland; spiritual too religious. Somehow in the telling of the story, in shedding light upon the daily lives of the Afghan people, which are as rich with tenderness and a connection to the best of community, the land and the stars as they are poor in the eyes of the West, she elevates the reader in ways that are hopefully permanent and leaves me marveling again that the best books for all of us are often marketed to the young.
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Format: Paperback
The cover of this book is very off-putting. This is an excellent book. It is a children's book in the sense that it would be good for kids from middle grades on up to read it. But it is a great book for adults also. Gives a view of what the war we see from the point of view of soldiers is actually doing to life in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The young woman teacher is an American who converted to Muslim
after she meets the love of her life an Afghani doctor. It allows her view of religion to grow and she compares her old life to Pakistani life.
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