What is truly amazing about Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy is that this young man could write such a beautiful book from the first-person perspective of a young Afgani girl.
Zulaikha (thankfully, there’s pronunciation guide in the back of the book) loves her family, especially her older sister and her father. They don’t make a big deal about her cleft lip. Her little brothers used to ignore it too. But now that they’re getting bigger, they’re following the neighborhood bullies, and picking on her too.
But despite everything, Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for a happy future for her sister. She hopes for a prosperous business for her father. She hopes for a chance to learn to read for herself.
Then, one day, she discovers she can even hope for a corrected cleft lip. Dare she hope too much?
Reedy does not hide the pain, difficulties and endurance needed to live life in Afganistan, especially for women. It’s amazing that Zulaikha has so much hope, when so many (especially women) around her have so little hope… and for good reason. Even though Zulaikha deals with very difficult things (SPOILER ALERT: the horrific death of her sister), she is still able to see a future for herself at the end of the book.
Highly recommended for ages 13 and up.