Title: The Breadwinner Trilogy
Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Year: 2009 (paperback)
Concepts: scarcity, poverty, discrimination, jobs, markets, child schooling and work, social justice, economics of conflict
Review: As a girl growing up in the Taliban-controlled capital of Afghanistan, Parvana has already witnessed an enormous array of injustices and cruelties in her short lifespan. The Taliban had instituted a host of restrictions on the rights and freedoms of women and girls, so she and her sisters could no longer go to school and their mother had to give up her job. Even stepping foot outside required male accompaniment and the body cover of a chador or burqa. Bombing raids had decimated their previous homes, causing the family to live in poverty in a single cramped room of a bombed-out apartment building.
This situation thus sets the stage for the three consecutive novels bound together in The Breadwinner Trilogy. The first story, The Breadwinner, depicts Parvana's courage and savvy as she takes on a boy's identity in order to generate an income in the marketplace when their father is arbitrarily imprisoned by the Taliban. In Parvana's Journey, Parvana travels across the war-torn country in a desperate attempt to find her mother and siblings, who had left Kabul for a wedding. Along the way she supports and joins forces with several other children who were orphaned and debilitated by the war. The final tale, Mud City, follows Parvana's strong-willed friend Shauzia, who has fled Afghanistan and must navigate the harsh realities of a refugee camp and life on the streets of Peshawar, Pakistan.
This eye-opening volume provides readers with a stark look at the hardships caused by Taliban rule and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. These devastating consequences include disruptions to family life, the destruction of buildings and homes, and the removal of job and schooling opportunities. Weighty topics certainly, but in telling the stories from a child's point of view, the author makes the content accessible to middle grade readers and young adults who are ready to leave the comfort zone of lighter reading materials.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children