Review Blog

Oct 19 2009

Children of War : Iraqi Children Speak by Deborah Ellis

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Allen and Unwin, 2009. ISBN 9781742371146.
(Ages : 12+) In the wake of her extraordinary Off to War: Soldiers' Children Speak, Deborah Ellis gives us this selection of stories from Iraqi children, whose lives have been disturbed by war. The 20 stories range from Haythem, aged 8, a boy with hydrocephalus caused by the enriched uranium used in bombs, to 15 year old Musim, who fled with her family to Amman after seeing the plight of women spiraling downwards in Baghdad, and 19 year old B.W. along with others who can only be known by initials. Each story tells a different tale of that child's life, interrupted cruelly by the conflict not of their doing, going on around them. Each story tells of how they have coped and are coping, in a land not of their birth, a place where they are refugees and outsiders, exploited, alone and living in poverty.
In a classroom where issues are discussed, this book will form a basis for conversation and thought. Students cannot help but be disturbed by the stories of children their age and the horrors they have seen and are involved in. This book will give faces to the horror scenes broadcast each night on TV.
Several stories, amongst the many, stood out. 15 year old Musim had hoped along with her family that things would improve after the first Iraqi war. But this did not happen. Women's lives were even more strictly regulated. Many were kidnapped, raped and beaten. When her father died, her mother remarried, but her stepfather grew more and more violent and threatening, when the bombs started. She vividly describes what it is like for people to live during a bombing raid, and so Musim and her family fled to Amman. Here at least she and her siblings can go to school, but the uncertainty is overwhelming.
A telling quote form Dwight D. Eisenhower completes the stories, and this is followed by an excellent glossary of terms, and two pages of websites where further information can be found. Of all of these, the most chilling is a site which keeps an up to the minute count of all Iraqi people killed. And we know that this count includes an excessive number of women and children.
Fran Knight

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