When the Taliban take over Afghanistan, eleven year old Parvana’s life is turned upside down. After leaving four homes because they’d been destroyed by bombs, she and her family find themselves living in one room of an apartment building not completely destroyed by bombs. Before the Taliban, Parvana’s mother wrote for a newspaper and her father was a school teacher, her bossy older sister was planning on going to university. Together they live with her younger sister and brother as their father tries to make a living selling trinkets and reading letters for the illiterate in the market. Parvana’s already desperate life gets worse when Taliban soldiers arrest her father over dinner one night because he was educated in England. In order to survive in Taliban controlled Afghanistan where women are not allowed outside without a male escort, Parvana cuts her hair and becomes a boy in appearance. As Kaseem she is able to take up her father’s business and earn money. In the market she meets another girl from her class in school who has cut her hair. Together they work to find ways to earn more money. The rest of the story is filled with adventure, hardship, courage, more hardship and eventually, a plan to reunite the family.
The Breadwinner is an inspiring story of courage, perseverance and hope. It is also devastating. With clarity and powerful storytelling, Deborah Ellis takes readers into the heart of Afghanistan under the Taliban in the late 90s. Written for young readers the book is accessible and well written and does a good job of giving a picture of the evil of the actions of the Taliban in a way that is relatable and not too much for nine and ten year olds. It is a great book for anyone looking to learn about another culture and a situation relevant to our current time. The Breadwinner helped me grow in compassion toward the people of Afghanistan, many of whom have come as refugees to North America and Europe in the past decade.
- Ages: 9 – 99
- Awards: Middle East Book Award (2001)
- Pages: 168
- Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
- Parvana’s Journey, Mud City and My Name is Parvana (books 2 , 3 and 4 of the Breadwinner series by Deborah Ellis
- Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri
- Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh
By Aaron G. Myers