Thursday, February 12, 2009
Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan
by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan • photographs by Tony O'Brien
October 2008 • Bloomsbury Children's Books • Nonfiction (illustrated)
If the stories that come out of Afghanistan are ever to contain hope for the future, then the young people in these pages are that hope.
Story: Award-winning photographer Tony O'Brien and filmmaker Mike Sullivan went to Afghanistan to interview and photograph children of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, and with very different daily lives. As each one tells his or her story, the reader is placed in the middle of everyday life as it is lived by the children of one of the world's most enduringly conflict-ridden countries. From street workers to female students in newly formed academies, from children who work in family businesses to pickpockets who steal from visiting photographers, these are the faces of young Afghans who wish for peace in their neighborhoods, in their country, and in their lifetimes.
Story behind the story: Tony O'Brien's work has appeared in many publications including Time, Life and Newsweek; he is currently the head of the Documentary Studies program at the College of Santa Fe. Mike Sullivan is a bush pilot and filmmaker who spent years working with Jacques Cousteau and has done humanitarian and environmental work all over the world. Here they tell the story of Afghanistan through the eyes of her children: "We asked the children we met about their past, their families, their present lives, and their hopes for the future....Often we told the children the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp and asked what their three wishes would be. At times we sensed that the answers were influenced by the fact that they were addressing outsiders, foreigners. But the overwhelming desire for education was genuine. Children who had been denied school for so many years had a burning desire for education and peace. Muktar, our translator, explained that education if truly their dream, although for many it is out of their reach. Their reality is this poverty-stricken, war-torn country."
Some of their stories:
Ayisha Hasea Qadir, age 14, Kabul, Freedom Afghanistan Girls' School
"I want to be a journalist and travel all over, to America, Australia, and India, as well as Afghanistan. I want to talk to the sick people, the poor people, and bring their words back here to put on the news. If there is a need for me to have a family I will marry, but if there is no need, then I won't. When I am a journalist I will take care of myself. I will marry my profession."
Wahaab, age 10, Kabul, marketplace
"I have been working as a thief for twenty days, stealing from people's pockets. I've done it ten times, it's true, ten times in twenty days. I want my real father to come back, I want my sisters and brothers, and I want a house."
Bibi Aisha, age 11, Sutir Faridah, Lelandar
"I have never been out of Lelandar....I would love to believe in a magic carpet -- I would use it to fly home from school. It takes me one hour to walk; I could fly in five minutes. But I wouldn't want to go on a flying camel. We don't have one of those. It is an old name Sutir Faridah. Maybe there were flying camels then."
Najmudin, age 13, Bamian
"I hope to be a teacher, to bring the light to other children. I want to be a teacher of teachers."
★"The goofy grin of 13-year-old Najmudin in the final photo lightens the solemnity but strengthens the overall message that these resilient young folk haven’t lost their hope of better things to come.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"The book provides a sensitive, poignant, and respectful look at the lives of these young people. …This is a timely, relevant, and well-executed offering.”—School Library Journal
Now that you've had glimpse into these young people's lives, you need to see their faces, so full of hope, so inspiring.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent and reviews are in the works; please check back and click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say.