My Name Is Parvana

by Deborah Ellis

First introduced in The Breadwinner (2001), followed by Parvana’s... read more

First introduced in The Breadwinner (2001), followed by Parvana’s Journey (2002) and Mud City (2003), all published by Groundwood, Parvana is now a prisoner of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, suspected of terrorism. She is frustrating her captors by refusing to answer any questions. In fact she refuses to speak at all. A mixture of present-day narration and flashback, Deborah Ellis’s tense, emotionally charged novel moves back and forth between Parvana’s experience as a prisoner, subjected to lengthy periods of standing and sleep deprivation in ongoing efforts to get her to talk, and how she came to be arrested. Parvana’s strong-willed mother, with whom the teen is often at odds, has established a school for girls. A reluctant student, Parvana becomes a willing teacher when the opportunity presents itself. The school is the first chance at an education for most girls who attend, and for some it’s also a haven from abuse. Then the Taliban begins threatening families who send their daughters, and soon the school itself is in jeopardy—they could lose funding from international supporters if too many students drop out. In the chaos following Taliban violence against the school, Parvana is arrested by the U.S. military. She is innocent but her refusal to speak is the greatest power she believes she has. This vivid, at times heart-wrenching look at what the people of Afghanistan—especially women and girls—face, and also how much they can accomplish, is grounded in Parvana’s personal story. Ellis skillfully walks a fine line in showing the complexities of U.S. military personnel, who are seen here as individuals driven by frustration, and sometimes fear, but not uncaring. (Age 12 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013

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