9781554987658_1024x1024The Breadwinner
By Deborah Ellis
Published by Groundwood Books

“…The Breadwinner is a potent portrait of life in contemporary Afghanistan, showing that powerful heroines can survive even in the most oppressive and sexist social conditions.” —John Green, Booklist

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Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for the crime of having a foreign education, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

The Breadwinner is a novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances. A map, glossary and author’s note provide young readers with background and context. All royalties from the sale of this book will go to Women for Women, an organization that supports health and education projects in Afghanistan.

Reviews & Accolades
“Ellis bases her contemporary novel on refugee stories about the oppressive rule of Afghanistan by the Taliban…the topical issues introduced, coupled with this strong heroine, will make this novel of interest to many conscientious teens.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“We’ve heard and read millions of words about living under the Taliban, yet it remains a distant horror. But [The Breadwinner] brings everything to poignant life.”  —The Independent

“…The Breadwinner is a potent portrait of life in contemporary Afghanistan, showing that powerful heroines can survive even in the most oppressive and sexist social conditions.” —John Green, Booklist

Groups Represented

Survival, gender discrimination, repression

Kabul, Afghanistan

See Also
Parvana’s Journey
(Book 2 of The Breadwinner Trilogy)
Mud City (Book 3 of The Breadwinner Trilogy)

Author Research
Since my involvement with Afghanistan, which began when news of the crimes of the Taliban hit the Toronto newspapers back in 1996, I have been trying to understand what war does to people. What the decisions made by people living in safety do to the daily lives of people whose opinions about the matter are not heard.

I’ve seen the way bombs and bullets shatter human bodies and devastate families. I’ve learned what happens when the destruction of infrastructure leads to bad water, food shortages and the lack of medical care. And I’ve heard from refugees about how their lives have been derailed and reduced to Waiting — for food, for shelter, for documents, for peace.

Through all the tales of crime and chaos, there has been one consistent champion — the educators. Teachers, whether professionally trained or picking it up as they go along, who carve out little niches of safety and childhood for the kids in need. Librarians who remind us that human beings are capable of creating things noble and sublime (is there anything more beautiful than a line of books on a shelf?). And others who, through music, art, sport or community building, lift us all up.

Books can help us remember what we have in common as humans.

And that’s what I try to do with mine.

READ more about Deborah Ellis’ work in Afghanistan and her books at her website

Engagement Projects
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