30 September 2016

Review #532: One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Friendship ... is born at the moment when one man says to another "What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

----C.S. Lewis

Nadia Hashimi, an internationally bestselling author, pens a terrific and extremely heart rending yet enlightening tale of love, friendships, child marriage, bacha posh in her new middle grade contemporary fiction book, One Half from the East where the author weaves a tale centered around a ten year old Afghan girl who encounters a bomb blast that claims her father's leg that led that girl and her family to shift to the villages where the little girl is forced to dress as a boy in order to bring good fortune to her falling family.


Internationally bestselling author Nadia Hashimi’s first novel for young readers is an emotional, beautiful, and riveting coming-of-age journey to modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh—a preteen girl dressed as a boy.

Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune.

Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room.

One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh.

Now Obayda is Obayd.

Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more.

But their transformation won’t last forever—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Obayda faces the tragic bomb blast in a market in Kabul that claimed her policeman father's leg, thereby stripping away their family's financial source and means of living, which finally led Obayda, her one legged father, her mother and her three elder sisters to shift to their father's village house. In the village Obayda's and her family's life resumes normally with the financial help from her father's brother. But one fine day, Obayda's aunt proposes her mother to turn their youngest daughter into bacha posh (a preteen girl dresses as a boy) in order to support their financial condition, as the girls are not allowed to work in Afghanistan, instead being a boy, she has the freedom to bring money into her family by doing odd jobs. Obayda reluctantly turns into a boy with a reformed name, Obayd, and in the beginning, Obayd faces a lot of challenges to settle into the lifestyle of a boy who can run freely, eat more food, stay outside his home until nightfall and can be exempted from any household and domestic chores. So gradually Obayd learns the ropes to be a boy dresses in shirts and pants, and in the process, he finds a new friend, Rahim, in school who is also like him, and together they embrace the freedom, run wildly through the mountains to pass below the rainbows, chase other boys, do anything they like, but all until puberty and they would do anything to stay a bacha posh forever. But there is no forever for a bacha posh.

This is the first Nadia Hashimi that I got an opportunity to read, although in my tbr shelf, a copy of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell is lying there for over months now, as I have not yet found the time to read it. And after reading the prequel of The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, I'm definitely looking forward in reading about Rahima's painful journey into marriage, love and womanhood. This story that is centered around Rahima's friend, Obayda is a real gem that is polished, flawless and shinning brightly through its equally evocative emotional and psychological aspects. Right from the very first page, the story swept me away into the dusty and rugged terrain of Kabul along with Obayda and her adventures as a bacha posh. This is a must read not only for all children but also for the adults that will let them see brutal truth behind the life of a woman/girl living in a misogynist society.

The author's writing style is coherent yet exquisite, rich with myriad of emotions that will make the readers feel the pain, joy, happiness and the challenges of the protagonist till the very last page. The narrative is very simple and easy to comprehend with and the author has strikingly captured the voice and mindset of a ten year old girl that is not only honest but is quite thought provoking, that will force the readers to think about the protagonist's situation from their hearts. The pacing of the book is really swift as the author unravels the story through some layers and twists that will surprise the readers. As a whole, this is a fulfilling read, but it is bound to leave the readers with a hangover and lasting impression for the protagonist and her family.

The backdrop of the story is vividly arrested into the plot with the tiny and minute details about the landscapes, the food, the culture, the religious beliefs, the societal stigmas, the prejudiced ideals, the streets, the people, the traditional attire and everything, that will let the readers visually imagine the scenes unfolding right before their eyes. So this story will transport the readers right into the middle of a forgotten village in Kabul where people are dominated by a cruel and vicious warlord.

The characters from this story are equally well developed, laced with flaws and dynamism in their demeanor thereby making them look real and believable in the eyes of the readers. The main character, Obayda is flawlessly depicted with enough realism and flaws, the readers can easily comprehend with the feelings of this little girl, who is learning so much about the double standard world she lives in without a question, although she is quite mature compared to her tender age. The other supporting characters are also equally fantastic and enlightens the story with their unmatched charm.

In a nutshell, this is a captivating middle grade story that is not only poignant but will keep the readers turn the pages of this book frantically to learn about a girl treading her way into the world bravely and freely like a boy, even though she knows that her freedom isn't long lasting.

Verdict: A must read for all. Hashimi at her best.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

Author Info:
Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family. Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.
Nadia attended Brandeis University where she obtained degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. In 2002, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s. It was a bittersweet experience for everyone, finding relics of childhood homes and reuniting with loved ones.
Nadia enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and became active with an Afghan-American community organization that promoted cultural events and awareness, especially in the dark days after 9/11. She graduated from medical school and went on to complete her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. On completing her training, Nadia moved to Maryland with her husband where she works as a pediatrician. She’s also a part of the “Lady Docs,” a group of local female physicians who exercise, eat and blog together.
With her rigorous medical training completed, Nadia turned to a passion that had gone unexplored. Her upbringing, experiences and love for reading came together in the form of stories based in the country of her parents and grandparents (some even make guest appearances in her tales!). Her debut novel, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was released  in 2014. Her second novel, When The Moon Is Low, followed in 2015 and chronicled the perilous journey of an Afghan family as they fled Taliban-controlled Kabul and fell into the dark world of Europe's undocumented.
She and her husband are the beaming parents of four curious, rock star children, two goldfish and a territorial African Grey parrot.
Visit her here

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