Authors Discuss the Crisis in Afghanistan

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.

Recommended Reading

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. Ground Zero

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

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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3 replies

  1. Thank you for this timely and thoughtful post, Hannah. Current events clearly present an opportunity for empathy and critical thinking.

    For older students, I would also like to recommend an article posted on “Timeline of U.S. Exit from Afghanistan.”

  2. Judi,
    Thanks so much, I have at least two teachers that are working on projects using these books and resources. I appreciate the recommendations.

  3. Children’s Book Authors Reflect on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11 POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2021

    From Parnassus in Nashville, TN

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