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Nithya Sivashankar

By Rukhsana Khan ; Carolyn Marsden
Duckbill Books, Chennai, 2013, pp. 202 & 164, Rs. 250.00 & 225.00


Duckbill Books’ Not Our War (NOW) series is just what Indian young adults need. The series, in the publisher’s words, ‘deals with children growing up in times of conflict—powerless, vulnerable, and yet, against all odds, brave and hopeful of a better future’. Last year, Duckbill brought out two books in the series—Wanting Mor and The White Zone, both written by international authors, and set in the Middle East. Both the stories deal with life during the time of war and are set in the recent past. Their protagonists are children and, while their stories are set against the backdrop of war, some of their personal conflicts are universal. Wanting Mor was the winner of the Middle East Book Award (Youth Fiction Category) in 2009 and The White Zone was the Gold Medalist for the 2012 Independent Publisher Awards.  Rukhsana Khan, an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian author and storyteller, pens the story of a young Afghani girl, Jameela, in Wanting Mor. The story, as the Author’s Note suggests, is set in 2001, post the American invasion, and is based on a true story. Wanting Mor begins with the death of Jameela’s mother (referred to as ‘Mor’ by Jameela). Immediately after her Mor’s death, Jameela’s Baba—a crabby, temperamental man—decides to sell all their belongings and leave their small village behind to move to Kabul. Jameela, a meek, subservient teen, does not get enough time to process the happenings around her. She barely talks to her opium-addicted father, but is compliant to his whims. She remains a mute spectator as he makes decisions for him, and her.  Life is not easy for Jameela in Kabul. Her father remarries and she is subsequently abandoned in a crowded market by her very own Baba. An old butcher offers her refuge and his family is kind to her, however the butcher’s wife is insistent that Jameela grow up in an orphanage since they do not have the means to support another child during war times. She is inducted into the orphanage, and meets children her age, learns to read and builds new relationships.  Wanting Mor is Jameela’s coming-of-age story set in the war-torn city of Kabul. The war strictly remains in the background and doesn’t feature much in the actual story. It is a poignant tale that tracks the transformation of a timorous, diffident child in to a mature, ...

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