A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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, California. 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.
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?
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
For kids who love stories about 9/11 and history
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