As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, many American children and adults do not know what to do to support the Afghan people caught in the turmoil. Throughout the pandemic, we have turned to both literature and research to guide young people. However, there is far more fiction and nonfiction about pandemics in YA literature. This put me on a search for YA about the more than 40 years of crisis in Afghanistan.
You might ask a librarian or teacher to recommend a story set in Afghanistan, and you will most likely hear about the 2003 Khaled Hosseini new classic, The Kite Runner. As reported in Kirkus, Hosseini contributed to both the New York Times and the Washington Post about the recent US withdrawal from Afghanistan. You can also hear him in this interview with NPR Morning Edition host A Martínez.
Though The Kite Runner is a great choice for teens about the history and culture of Afghanistan, there is not a clear choice for middle-grade readers. However, this year Alan Gratz released his novel Ground Zero. This book featured Brandon from New York City on September 11, 2001, and Reshmina from Afghanistan in 2019. Gratz received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist for Ground Zero. Having recently spent so much time researching Afghanistan for the book, Gratz writes about his concerns in a recent newsletter.
For more information about the grade/age range of these two books, see the Common Sense Media reviews:
Another Important Author to Consider for Middle Grades
In 2002 Deborah Ellis published the first of her Breadwinner series. Then in 2017, an animated movie, The Breadwinner, was released. The film was nominated in 2018 for an Academy Award. Ellis also wrote a series of stories released in 2012 titled Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely through a Never-Ending War. This collection received a starred review from School Library Journal.
Finding Research about Ongoing Events in the News
Unfortunately, as with every other topic these days, news reports are often partisan and polarizing. Understanding the timeline of events is important. NPR has a thorough article beginning with the Soviet War years. AllSides allows you to search by topic and shows left, right, and center news sources for topics. For pure facts about education, language, and population, The World Factbook compiled by the CIA provides incredible information. For instance, the median age of a person from the US is 38.5 years compared with the median age of 19.5 years in Afghanistan. There are so many data points to investigate in this database.
Please share your recommendations for timely reads on these topics. Also, check out this list of children’s picture books set in Afghanistan.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.