Thursday, July 9, 2009
Under the Persimmon Tree
UNDER THE PERSIMMON TREE by Suzanne Fisher Staples was published in 2005, but I just read about it in a blog (sorry, don't remember which one) that was suggesting good middle eastern titles. I picked it up from the library and was incredibly riveted. The novel takes place in 2001-2002 in Afghanistan right after the World Trade Center bombings. A family living in the mountains (outside of Kunduz) is devastated by what the Taliban does when it comes to their home. The young daughter, Najmah, takes a perilous journey with a neighboring family to find her brother and father in Peshawar, Pakistan. There, Najmah finds a blond American muslim woman, Nusrat, who is holding a "school" at her house while she waits for her own Afghani husband to return from Mazari-al-Sharif where he is a doctor running a free clinic. Nusrat cares for Najmah as the two discover the whereabouts of their loved ones in a very heart wrenching conclusion.
I have listened to the audio versions of SHABANU and it's sequel HAVELI by the same author. The rich cultural background Fisher Staples gives to these novels is outstanding, especially from the viewpoint of someone who knows very little about the region or customs. In this particular novel, Fisher Staples grapples with Sept 11, 2001, from the other side. It was a refreshing way to look at the tragedy- if that's possible. Did we understand, as Americans, what happened to the innocent civilians when we bombed Afghanistan? Did we know how fearful the Afghanis were of the Taliban? This novel really opened my eyes and would be a powerful teaching tool for students. I really want to add this to my collection next year and book talk it in September.