One half from the east by Nadia Hashimi
Harper Collins, 2016. ISBN 9780062572196
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. This is such a fascinating story. It is about a young girl in Afghanistan whose life undergoes a drastic change, at the age of 10, after the calamity of her father losing a leg in a random bomb blast. With three sisters, and her father incapacitated and depressed, there is no male provider in the family, so in order to fill that space and to bring luck to the family, Obayda is made to become Obayd, dressed as a boy and treated as one. She is a 'bacha posh', a custom in Afghanistan where some families select a girl child to live as a boy thus avoiding the social stigma of not having any male children.
Obayd comes to discover the many advantages of being a boy, he is given the most choice parts of a meal, he can run freely, join in rough games, and stay out longer. And he makes friends with another bacha posh, Rahim, a boy who teaches him to be brave and strong, daring to do things he would never have dreamt of as a girl.
However there is a cost - there comes a time when the bacha posh is expected to turn back into a girl and forget all the freedoms he has enjoyed. For Rahim, promised as a child bride, the prospect is appalling. Obayd struggles to change his own future.
The book raises many questions about what is a girl, what is a boy, and society expectations of each of the sexes. It is a sure discussion starter about issues of identity, gender and family roles.
This book has been written for young readers. Author Nadia Hashimi has also written a bestseller for adults, The pearl that broke its shell. I'll definitely be seeking it out.