The White ZoneThe White Zone
By Carolyn Marsden
Published by Carolrhoda Books

“Marsden’s detailed descriptions of everyday life make this culture come alive.” –School Library Journal

“Marsden tells a story that resonates highly in today’s society where there are many different types of chaos disrupting lives and homes worldwide.” –VOYA

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Description

Nouri and his cousin Talib can only vaguely remember a time before tanks rumbled over the streets of their Baghdad neighborhood when books, not bombs, ruled Mutanabbi Street. War has been the backdrop of their young lives. And now Iraq isn’t just at war with Americans. It’s at war with itself. Sunnis fight Shiites, and the strife is at the boys’ doorsteps. Nouri is Shiite and Talib is half Sunni. To the boys, it seems like only a miracle can mend the rift that is tearing a country and a family apart.

In early 2008, Iraq experienced a miracle. Snow fell in Baghdad for the first time in living memory. As snow covered the dusty streets, the guns in the city grew silent and there was an unofficial ceasefire. During these magical minutes, Sunni and Shiite differences were forgotten. There was no green zone, no red zone. There was only the white zone.

Against this real-life backdrop, Nouri and Talib begin to imagine a world after the war.

Reviews & Accolades
Marsden’s latest book puts a face on a bitter, centuries-old conflict that continues to rage. Though her characters are mostly interchangeable, their actions are emblematic of the larger conflict. Particularly moving is the wanton destruction of Mutannabi Street, once the cultural capital of Baghdad. This tense novel will be particularly useful in the classroom.” –Booklist

“A year in the life of a Shiite boy, Nouri, and his half-Sunni cousin, Talib, told from their alternating perspectives, provides a window into the terror-filled world of American-occupied Baghdad. Escalating financial, religious, and political tensions break apart families and destroy neighborhoods in Marsden’s commanding war story…Haunting yet hopeful.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Marsden tells a story that resonates highly in today’s society where there are many different types of chaos disrupting lives and homes worldwide. The account will mostly appeal to instructors who would like to enlighten their students on certain issues, and also to readers with specific interest in the topic.” –VOYA

“Against this backdrop, Marsden paints a picture of real people who struggle to define themselves in opposition to each other. As the story unfolds in alternating viewpoints, we see the fallacy behind the divisions we create in society. As Nouri and Talib discover that the enemies they are supposed to hate include family members they have always loved, the lines that divide them no longer make sense, and we begin to see the humanity on both sides of the conflict. This book is a powerful reminder that, even in times of war, “the enemy” is no less human than we are.” –Children’s Literature

“Based on actual events, this novel is a realistic depiction of children caught up in hostilities they cannot fully understand. Although it touches on the American presence, the focus is on the conflicts between Shiite and Sunni Muslims…Marsden’s detailed descriptions of everyday life make this culture come alive.” –School Library Journal

Groups Represented
Iraqi
Sunni
Shiite

Themes
Religious differences, family relationships, family death

Setting
Baghdad, Iraq

Author Research
In January, 2008, I read an article in the paper about how snow had fallen in Baghdad for the first time in anyone’s memory. During this miracle, all acts of war ceased. There was an informal truce. Although I had many other projects going, I was so captivated by this happening that I immediately set to work on a fictional story.

When I write stories set in places like Iraq or Czechoslovakia, I rely heavily on either collaborators or gatekeepers, people from the culture who check my work for cultural accuracy. I also watch lots of movies and read everything I can get my hands on. As a perpetual “non-member– I aim to put aside all my preconceptions about the culture and to listen deeply to what is.

Engagement Projects
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