Looking anew at Afghanistan life

shooting kabulTITLE = Shooting KABUL

AUTHOR  = N. H. SENZAI

GENRE = WAR, MULTICULTURALISM, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 – 9

There is an interesting play on words in the title of this book which only becomes apparent as the story unfolds. Most readers will probably assume that the title refers to the conflict that seems to have embroiled Kabul (capital of Afghanistan) for so long. And it is from this conflict that Fadi and his family are fleeing in the novel’s opening chapters. Unfortunately in the rush and confusion of their departure, Fadi’s 6 year old sister, Mariam, is left behind and every member of the family seems to blame themselves for this loss, none more so than Fadi. They hope and pray that Mariam has made it across the border into one of the refugee camps in Pakistan. So when the family is finally resettled in California and Fadi hears of a photo competition with first prize as a trip to India, which borders on Pakistan, Fadi sees it as his chance to redeem himself. He hopes that by winning the competition he can find a path back to Mariam.

So “shooting Kabul” becomes as much about Fadi taking photos of his new home in the US as it is about guns firing in Afghanistan. And this central story is played out against the backdrop of growing tensions in America – because as the family anxiously awaits news of Mariam, the 9/11 attacks occur in New York and this brings ethnic tension to the forefront of their lives. Fadi must battle against racial bullying at school whilst worrying about the US retaliation against Afghanistan at home.

This is a sensitive and thoughtful book which intrduces young readers to a different perspective on some international events, particularly the role of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden in the history and politics of Afghanistan. A sense of compassion and tolerance breathes through the story which is enlivened by Fadi’s struggle to find his sister and peace for himself.

Recommended (dma) ****