The Breadwinner is the first book of two books my reading group is reading for this semester. It is a children’s book set in Afghanistan when the Taliban maintains much control over the daily lives of the people. Something that this book set out to accomplish was to remind us what we have in common with other people. This book did an excellent job of showing me how the main character, Parvana, and her family are not just some distant people completely unlike myself. Even though this story is fictional, Parvana felt very real to me. The dominant narrative I hear about everything and everyone in the Middle East is that they one homogenous, distant, foreign, and violent mass. Granted, that is not the only narrative I hear, but it still one that has shaped my perception about Afghanistan in a very real way. Parvana dealt with situations completely unfamiliar to me, such as digging up human bones for money, watching prosthetic limbs be sold regularly in the street market, and not knowing whether or not her family members were alive. But at the same time, she experienced things that felt more familiar to me, such as being jealous of her sister’s hair, wanting to have more freedom, and admiring her father.
Children’s books are so simple to read, but sometimes the lessons they present, big and small, remind you of how simple it can be to learn things.