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Monday, January 22, 2007

Under the Persimmon Tree - Suzanne Fisher Staples

Books about war are hard to read, and this book, set in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was definitely challenging in many repects, but it was extremely well done and a powerful novel. I love Suzanne Fisher Staples' work, her book Shabanu is among my top favorites for young adults ever, and this book is another example of her ability to bring characters to life. Najmah, a young girl who lives in Northern Pakistan has her family torn apart by the war, and ends up alone and afraid in a strange place unsure of what to do or how she will survive. Nusrat, an American woman who married a Pakistan man and moved with him to Pakistan, teaches refugee children under the persimmon tree in her home's courtyard while she awaits news of her doctor husband. The two come together and help one another to survive through what are incredibly challenging times. There is not a lot of overt violence in the story, but the undercurrents of it flow through every page, creating a distinct tension for readers. Like many other books I've read this year, this novel is an excellent example of how writing can help us to develop empathy for a group of people we know little about. In this case it help us to develop empathy for a group we often hear very negative reports about, people of the Middle East. I cannot exactly say I "enjoyed" this book, but I know that it helped me to think differently, and that's a really important thing. I would definitely recommend Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples.

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