Review Blog

Oct 25 2016

One half from the east by Nadia Hashimi

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HarperCollins, 2016. ISBN 9780062572196
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Afghanistan, Gender roles. The idea of Bacha Posh is very new to me in the context in which it is presented in this page turner of a book. Girls who dress as boys in some Muslim countries have done so to earn money for their families when there are no men, as presented in Deborah Ellis' book, Parvana (2002) but in this book it has a different tack, with one of the youngest girls in the family dressing and behaving as a boy because the family has no sons, and apart from saving face, the myth is that if a daughter dresses in this way then their next child will be a boy.
Obayd learns to love his new role as a boy, playing games, having no chores to do, going to school, but when his friend, Rahim is taken out of school and engaged to be married, then Obayd is distraught because he knows that his friend, another girl like him does not want this to happen. They have both hoped for a miracle to happen allowing them to stay male for the rest of their lives. Obayd does the impossible, visiting twelve year old Rahim in the compound where she has been sent to marry and knowing of her plight, he then treks to the mountains to find a rainbow, believing in the old legend that this will change him for good.
His family is distraught and Obayd's mother does the only thing she can, she changes his clothes and replaces them with his female dress. Back to her real name, Obayda is terribly upset, knowing that being a boy gives her privileges, opportunities and status that girls will never have and seeing Rahim's plight is frightened something similar will happen to her.
This is a fascinating story and will give readers the opportunity to explore their own ideas about gender roles and stereotyping at length. In a class the discussions would be most fruitful.
Fran Knight

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