This December, our guest is Nadia Hashimi.
Born to Afghan parents who immigrated to America in the 1970s, Hashimi began her career as a medical doctor, but also wrote stories about the rich and complex experiences of Afghan culture. This resulted in a number of bestselling international novels for adults and the two books for children we will be discussing today - One Half From the East, and The Sky at Our Feet.
One Half From the East is the story of Obayda, the youngest daughter of an Afghan family living in Kabul. When her father loses his leg in a car bombing, the family moves to a remote village. As her father retreats further into depression, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the family to live. This is when Obayda first hears the term bacha posh, which is the practice of turning a girl in the family into a boy by cutting her hair, dressing her in boy’s clothing, and changing her name. Obayda, now Obayd, must navigate this completely different world.
In The Sky at Our Feet, we meet Shah, whose American name is Jason. On his mother’s birthday, Jason learns that his father did not die in a car accident as his mother has always told him. His dad is a murdered Afghan journalist, and his mother has been living on an expired visa, terrified she will be discovered, deported, and separated from her son. When her worst nightmare happens, Jason is left alone. His only hope, he believes, is to find his mother’s friend in New York City and ask for help.
Hashimi writes with richness, emotion, and empathy, enfolding the reader into her characters’ lives and families. Difficult topics such as violence, racism, poverty, and misogyny are handled deftly, clearly, and with compassion. She applies the same powerful brushes to her beautiful themes as well, like friendship, identity, inclusion, and acceptance. The result is an intimate and uplifting reading experience.