Wanting Mor, is written by Canadian author, Rukhsana Khan, for children 10-14 years. Khan again demonstrates her gift as a superb storyteller in her riveting novel about the life of a girl living in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2001, after the American invasion. Khan’s book is based on the true story of a girl living in an orphanage. Told in first person, Khan has beautifully captured the young girl’s voice. Her opening chapter really tugs at your heart-strings. She has written a compelling story about resilience. It provides great insight into Afghani culture, and is an excellent book for classroom discussions.
Jameela awakens to find her sick mother (Mor) dead. Before dusk, Jameela helps the neighbor women (Khalaa) prepare her mother’s body for burial. Jameela only knows hardship in her life. She has lived in poverty, and has lost many family members to death through illness and the war. Jameela has a birth defect, and hides her cleft lip behind her shawl (porani). Her father (Baba) has a temper, is an alcoholic and a heroin addict. Before Jameela has time to grieve Mor’s passing, Baba uproots her from her home and moves to the large city of Kabul where he promises life will be better.
Jameela dislikes Kabul and is at odds with this very westernized city and its unfamiliar customs. Her Baba quickly marries a woman who doesn’t like Jameela, and uses her as a slave. Jameela tries very hard to please her new stepmother. But, her hateful stepmother demands that Jameela’s father get rid of her. Baba takes his daughter to the center of Kabul’s busy marketplace and abandons her. After waiting all day for Baba to return, a kind butcher finds her outside of his shop and invites her to his home. Eventually, he places her in an orphanage.
It is Jameela’s memories of Mor and deep Muslim faith that ground her in her new life at the orphanage. In a twist of fate, her suffering ends and is replaced with kindness and compassion, friendships, an education, and hope for a new future. Khan does a lovely job of weaving Jameela’s faith and native language of Pushto into the story. There is a glossary at the end of the book for Pushto and Arabic words.
Wanting Mor has been recently nominated for the British Columbia’s Red Cedar Award and Britain’s Muslim Writer’s Award. It has won the 2009 Middle East Book Award, the USBBY Outstanding International Books List, the IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, and the Society of School Librarians International Honor Award.
Khan also is the author of the award-winning the Big Red Lollipop, (chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best picture books of the year) the Roses in My Carpets, Silly Chicken, King of the Skies and Ruler of the Courtyard. Check out Rukhsana Khan’s website for information about all of her books and school presentations.
On Thursday, Oct. 20, I will do an author interview with Rukhsana Khan.
Copyright (c) 2011, Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved