The Taliban are being wiped out of Afghanistan and the country is beginning to rebuild itself when the story of Words in the Dust opens. It is a “new Afghanistan” as many of the characters say. But as Zulaikha finds out, change can be slow. Zulaikha and her family are struggling between holding to their traditions and the new opportunities that Taliban freedom and American influence has given them.
I really like this novel. I would classify it as middle grade, but it introduces some important topics like feminism, equality, cultural differences, and educational/medical opportunities. I’ve read similar books about Muslim culture and the references in this novel seem authentic, but I am by no means an expert. If you know about some of the traditions of the culture the story isn’t particularly surprising, but it works well for a younger, inexperienced audience. It certainly isn’t “dumbed down,” there is something in here for older readers as well.
The characters are interesting and the plot is solid. Though this was written by a male American soldier and inspired by real events, it doesn’t feel much like ” white America saves the day.” The Afghans are skeptical and they acknowledge that the Americans are materialistic, pushy, and wasteful for all the good they try to do. Sadly, Americans still have a distrust of Muslims, but I believe novels like this can help curb the growing hatred and fear in our youth.