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The White Zone Hardcover – February 1, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–The war in Iraq separates preteen cousins Nouri and Talib because of Talib's half-Sunni, half-Shiite heritage. The escalating violence culminates in a real event, a rare and calming snowfall. Told from alternating points of view, the story points up the boys' similarities in spite of their sectarian differences.α(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Five years into the second Iraq war, the violence that rages between Sunnis and Shiites divides young cousins Nouri, a Shiite, and Talib, who is half Sunni. When Nouri’s beloved uncle is killed by a Sunni bomber, the boy blames his cousin and perpetrates a foolish act of violence against him. As a result, Talib and his family must move from their home and neighborhood. The relationship between the two boys—once best friends—is sundered, and it may take a miracle to restore it. Marsden’s latest book puts a face on a bitter, centuries-old conflict that continues to rage. Though her characters are mostly interchangeable, their actions are emblematic of the larger conflict. Particularly moving is the wanton destruction of Mutannabi Street, once the cultural capital of Baghdad. This tense novel will be particularly useful in the classroom. Grades 5-8. --Michael Cart
Top customer reviews
About me: I'm a middle school/high school librarian
How I got this book: purchased it for the school library
Talib and Nouri were cousins, best of friends, but Talib was half Sunni and half Shiite. Maybe it was because of people like him that he would never ride in A'mmo Hakim's car ever again. It was just a passing thought. Nouri and Talib often played "war" together even though it was all around them. Nouri told Talib that "The infidels kill children. They break down doors and kill whole families." Yeah, but Talib was bold and could get candy from the Americans. "Hello, Mister." Anwar admired his bravery and Talib in turn admired Allah. When the muezzin called he quickly washed and knelt down to pray.
The family started to become unsettled as petty arguments erupted. It was because of Talib, the half-blood. His Mama, Fatima, was a Sunni, but his Baba, Nazar, was Nouri's Baba's brother-in-law and they were Shiite. The tension would escalate, but what was going to happen? Food was as short as everyone's temper and something had to be done. Karada was not a place for Talib's family and soon they would have to head to Mutanabbi Street where Sunni and Shiite got along. "I'm afraid that we--our children--will no longer be safe if a Sunni is welcome in our home ...." Even Nouri's Mama was afraid. And then there was the school teacher who met Talib at the door. Would Nouri ultimately betray his beloved cousin? Would Allah?
This is a startling commentary on two innocent casualties of war, cousins Nouri and Talib. This undoubtedly was a sobering read at best and as the tale progressed I was as flabbergasted as any of the characters, unsure as to how and why family, friends, and neighbors began to turn against one another. Marsden's masterful crafting of the events and expression of the mentality of Iraqi Muslims, both Shiite and Sunni will definitely bring an understanding of their culture to the young adult reader. The fear, determination, and doubt young Talib began to experience elicited sympathy from me as I read, yet I somehow felt the same toward Nouri. This is one of the most powerful YA novels I've read in some time. Simply stunning.
This book courtesy of the publisher.