Title: My Name is Parvana
Author: Deborah Ellis
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: Rs 299
Genre: Literary Fiction / Young Adult
About the Book [from the blurb]
Close down your school... or you will pay the price. Close down your school or we will kill you.
Locked away by American military soldiers in Afghanistan, Parvana refuses to talk to her captors. Her silence only baffles and angers those in charge, leading them to question the innocence of this young silent rebel, snatched from the ruins of a bombed-out school. Their only clue is her diary and a series of names in it that they hope will help them figure out what happened.
Through Parvana's story, you will see how lives are shattered and scattered like shrapnel in a country devastated by war. You will encounter people waging their own crushing battles: a single mother striving against vicious tradition to run a school for girls; young girls growing up with grimy realities and dreams of free skies; and students struggling to get an education that will give them wings.
Most of all, you will meet, and never forget, a feisty girl who believes that even in the darkest hours of death and destruction, hope shines forth like the desert sun.
‘My Name is Parvana’ is the story of a brave, intelligent and spirited teenage girl Parvana. The story is set in war-torn Afghanistan, after Taliban’s rule.
What I loved the most about this book is the way the story has been laid out for the reader. It starts at a point that instantly hooks you. This teenage girl has been picked up by the American soldiers from an abandoned, bombed-out school with an old bag which contains a half-eaten copy of ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ and a battered notebook. Nothing makes her say anything. The story moves back and forth in Present and Past until it merges beautifully at the end, and the story takes complete shape.
Parvana’s mother, an ex-journalist, makes educating young girls her goal in life, completely supported by her own daughters. Though the Taliban rule has come to an end, we find that life has not gone back to normalcy. There are people who are still stuck to those philosophies or are afraid to anger the Taliban. Once accosted by some villagers in the market, Parvana tells them fearlessly “you are all living in the past”.
Parvana is an extraordinary girl. She is headstrong and gritty. She dreams of becoming an architect. “What she really wanted was to build things – things people could live in that would make them feel safe and happy...”
She is extremely imaginative. When she is held captive by the soldiers in a cell, her fertile imagination weaves up a lot of situations like she comes up with an idea of printing poems or chapters of a novel on packaging so that soldiers could read the entire book.
Parvana is independent, compassionate, sensitive and strong-willed. She is confident and taking control of her situation comes naturally to her. “I was born to be in charge.”
It is difficult to imagine life of people in war-afflicted areas, how their hopes, their dreams, their normal lives get shattered every day. Each day is a struggle, even for something which should be every person’s right – education.
“Her life had gone from battle to battle, and she was never ever sure that the future would not be terrifying.”
“Afghanistan had so many armies now -the foreigners, the Taliban, the people who hated both the Taliban and the foreigners, the drug people and the people who had their own private armies just because they could.”
This is the story of how Parvana and her family brave threats, challenging circumstances and even resistance from the villagers to fulfill their dream of educating girls, because they truly believe that only education has the power to transform their circumstances. They also embrace anybody who reaches out to them, making them their companions in the journey of life. Despite the setting, it is certainly a story of hope. Because there are people who care; no matter what are the hurdles, the world is still a good place to be in.
This book is meant for Young Adults and therefore it does not dwell too much into the gore and bloodshed. The book focuses on lives and circumstances.
It is a deeply moving book, and one of the best I have read in a long time. All I would say is you have to meet Parvana. You would not forget her. You would not want to.
And for me, I am going to read the much talked about ‘the Breadwinner series’ by the author.
Note: The text in italics have been quoted from the book.
Review Book courtesy: Hachette India
Image source: Hachette India