Words in the Dust Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011.
266 pages. Fiction.
Words in the Dust is about a young girl named Zulaikah, who comes of age in Afghanistan as the Taliban is being driven out. She has a cleft pallet, and all the neighborhood children torment her. Zulaikah worries that she will never be married because she feels so ugly. When the American soldiers come into town, a doctor provides her with the opportunity to be healed. Zulaikah also meets a teacher named Meena, who offers to teach her how to read and write. Whereas beauty and education used to be dangerous attributes in a young single woman, in the new Afghanistan they are a measure of worth. Trent Reedy has written a phenomenal first novel based on his own experiences in the Middle East. This is a truly special book that blends culture and tradition with current events. It could be another Newbery contender! Appropriate for 5th grade and up.