Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Breadwinner and Mud City

It's a goal of mine to one day a teach a course with a world literature component. While I wish there was more YA lit about normal kids going about their daily lives in other countries (think E. Lockhart or John Green, but in Colombia), I think that the big issues tackled in world literature are important for adolescents. I'm still figuring out how the course should look; maybe students will have to read a book from each continent or they could focus on one area of the world and read about multiple countries. No matter what I end up doing, I know that I need to read a lot more books that are set in other countries so that I can make recommendations to my students.

The first novel in my new quest is The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. In my limited experience, Ellis seems to be the queen of YA world literature. I've already read The Heaven Shop, set in Malawi, and was impressed by how she took a challenging topic like the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and made it accessible to children. The Breadwinner is the first novel in a trilogy set in modern Afghanistan. Parvana is a young girl who has been forced out of school and inside her house because of the Taliban's rule of her country. When tragedy strikes her family, Parvana's only option is to pretend to be a boy and become the family's savior.

I learned a lot from this novel about the limitations placed on women under Taliban rule. As a sociology major, I took a lot of classes on women's issues, but that was before the Taliban became a focus. I was saddened that women have to be accompanied on the streets by a male, even if he is far younger. There's so much to discuss in The Breadwinner, apart from the plot, which is captivating.

I wanted to continue reading about Parvana, but couldn't track down the second book in the trilogy. The third novel, Mud City, shifts its focus to Shauzia, Parvana's friend who is single-minded in her desire to escape Afghanistan and live in France. To me, Shauzia's story is sadder than Parvana's. The desperation of Shauzia's life on the streets is something that Parvana never faced. Reading both novels would be a great opportunity for students to practice comparing character motivations and how the same external forces affect each one.

I finally joined Goodreads (my username is Miss Kelly) and was excited to see that many novels based on their setting. I'll be using that as a resource in my search for more world literature books.

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