Shooting Kabul

Common Sense Media says

Life and 9/11 through lens of 11-year-old Afghan immigrant.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers are introduced to a few everyday Afghan words, types of popular food, religious practices, and modern Afghan history. A glossary of terms, reading list, and helpful websites are included at the back of the book. Also, readers will learn basic techniques essential to creating good photographs, before the days of digital cameras. And they may want to read Fadi's favorite book, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and discover why it was so important to him.

Positive messages

Fadi's art teacher reminds him that bad things do sometimes happen to good people. People caught in bad situations should not blame themselves for what are really twists of fate. Also, a stronger message here is that taking revenge on your enemies lowers you to their level, and neither revenge nor fighting will solve any situation. Standing together to confront bullies, and being honorable, are better solutions.

Positive role models

Though the secondary characters seem a bit stereotypical, Fadi and his friends, family, and teachers are honorable, loving and responsible. His family members are practicing Muslims who take what they call the "true teachings" of the Quran to heart. They consider the oppressive and threatening actions of the extremist Taliban faction to be against those teachings. At his middle school, Fadi encounters bullies of a different sort. He is drawn into a fight at one point, and is punished unjustly but then, along with their other victims, he stands up to the bullies and solves the problem without violence or revenge. His best friend Ahn is the kind of caring, open-minded friend we would all hope to have.

Violence

The violence in Afghanistan is a looming threat and not really specified except in short references to killing and war. Also, the 9/11 attacks are reported over the television. However, actual violence happens in Fremont, CA, a real American city with a large Afghan community. On the streets and in the middle school, bullies beat up weaker kids for lunch money, etc., and the bullying intensifies after the 9/11 attacks. Several kids are threatened and/or get beat up for being dark-skinned immigrants. The bullies call it "American-style" justice.  And after 9/11, Mr. Singh, who drives the ice cream truck, is beaten by other adults who think he is a Muslim.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

No swearing, but several instances of name calling by the bullies, who refer to immigrant kids as "towel-heads," "Osamas," "little terrorists," and so on. 

Consumerism

The youngest sister carries a Barbie doll, the oldest sister has a Mickey Mouse watch, the cousin likes video games such as Myst and Civilization. Nikon and Minolta cameras are mentioned, as are Dodge vans and Mercedes-Benz cars. The older sister works part-time at McDonald's, and some characters take a birthday trip to Toys R Us.  These are all added as details more than as advertisements or enticements to buy any of the products.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this riveting first novel is a fictionalized account of the author's husband's escape from Kabul and his adjustment to middle school in Fremont, Calif. It deals with oppression, fear, difficult choices, guilt, prejudice, and bullying, as well as friendship, hope, and family honor. As historical fiction, it also presents insights into various aspects of  Afghan culture and politics, Islam, and the dangers and hardships of being a refugee, including a discussion of the impact of the 9/11 attacks on the immigrant community. Do not be misled by the title: the word "shooting" is not a violent reference.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Because the Taliban have become oppressive, especially to women and Afghans who were educated in the United States, 11-year-old Fadi and his family are forced to flee Afghanistan just months before the 9/11 attacks. In the middle of the night, as they are running to the truck that is to take them across the border to Peshawar in Pakistan, they lose their 6-year-old daughter, Mariam. Distraught and guilt-ridden, they nevertheless must emigrate without her to Fremont, CA, where life is very difficult for them and becomes worse after the 9/11 attacks. Family members already in Fremont help them out as they adjust to life in the U.S. and continue their search for Mariam.

The story is told from Fadi's point of view. He misses his sister, and feels that he has let his family down. On top of that, he struggles not only with the normal difficulties of fitting into middle school, but also with the prejudice often shown toward any immigrant, especially Muslims, after the 9/11/2001 attacks. A sensitive teacher, a good friend, and a photography contest all help Fadi cope and work to reunite the family.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This first novel tells a stirring story, which is gripping and engaging on several levels. From the terror of a narrow midnight escape from the Taliban, and the tragic loss of the youngest child, to the final resolution of the story, the action moves through so many ups and downs, some of which are world events, others more personal. Along the way, pertinent facts about Afghanistan and the immigrant experience are mixed in. Readers will be drawn in by it all, especially by the characters of Fadi, his family, and friends. They are very human, yet amazingly honorable and thoughtful people.

Readers of all ages will gain sensitive insight into the hardships immigrants experience in their daily lives, especially those seeking asylum from oppressive cultures. And, they will be reminded of how the 9/11 terrorist attacks made the lives of Muslim immigrants even harder. But middle-grade readers, in particular, will relate to Fadi as an 11-year-old trying to fit in. Not only has he come from a very different world, carrying a terrible secret and guilt, but he also has the usual anxieties and difficulties of any "new kid," and almost immediately he is the target of two school bullies. The hopeful message is that he finds solace and hope in his family and good friends as well as in his photography, and he makes honorable choices even in the most rugged situations. Though the characters, language, and even the plot are a bit stiff at times, that message alone makes this is a book everyone should read.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the title Shooting Kabul. What are the different meanings of the word "shooting," and what was the author referring to in this title? Do you think she intended for the reader to think of more than one meaning at the same time? What does that tell you about the story that follows?

  • Though this is a fictional story, it is based on true facts.  How does historical fiction help readers learn about the real world? What are some of the true facts in this book? What parts are made up? What do you think about the combination? Do you find it confusing or fascinating?

  • Why do you think some people bully others? How did the 9/11 attacks make the bullying even worse? At first, Fadi wanted revenge against the bullies, but then he changed his mind. What did he choose to do, and why did he make that choice? Do you think he had the right idea? 

  • How does photography help Fadi? How did things work out for him? Did you find the outcome believable?

  • You might want to read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, if you haven't already. Why was that book so important to Fadi?

Book details

Author:N. H. Senzai
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Paula Wiseman
Publication date:July 12, 2011
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12
Read aloud:8 - 12
Read alone:9 - 12

This review of Shooting Kabul was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 10 years old October 3, 2011
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

LOVE IT

very good, a bit of violence, but otherwise,great!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Educator Written bymrlayman July 28, 2014
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Wonderful story

As the back cover suggests this story begins with a gut-wrenching incident. I couldn't put the book down until I knew the main character, a young middle school boy, found peace. It was a wonderfully layered and satisfying story that put the reader in the shoes of a young Afghani arriving in California. The 9/11 backdrop adds an educational layer that most young readers probably are not exposed to. This story, involving a lost child, was an emotional experience for me as a parent. I don't think kids will be as affected, disturbed, by it. Overall a wonderful story with themes of tolerance, friendship, family, loyalty and hope.
What other families should know
Great messages

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