Shooting KabulShooting Kabul
By N.H. Senzai
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

“For all of Fadi’s differences from his Fremont, California classmates, he will still seem very familiar to many middle schoolers. The novel allows readers a view of a different culture and provides background for events that still plague us today.”—Steven Kral, VOYA

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In the summer of 2001, twelve year old Fadis parents make the difficult decision to illegally leave Afghanistan and move the family to the United States. When their underground transport arrives at the rendezvous point, chaos ensues, and Fadi is left dragging his younger sister Mariam through the crush of people. But Mariam accidentally lets go of his hand and becomes lost in the crowd, just as Fadi is snatched up into the truck. With Taliban soldiers closing in, the truck speeds away, leaving Mariam behind.

Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family and as the events of September 11th unfold the prospects of locating Mariam in a war torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home? Based in part on the Ms. Senzai’s husbands own experience fleeing his home in Soviet controlled Afghanistan in the 1970s, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

Reviews & Accolades
This is a sweet story of family unity, and readers will learn about Afghani Pukhtun culture…this is a worthwhile book about the immigrant experience in general, and Afghani culture specifically. Fadi is a likable hero who learns from his mistakes, and whose talent allows him to make a unique contribution to finding his sister, for the inevitable happy ending.” –Kristin Anderson, School Library Journal

“Beginning in the months before 9/11, this sensitive, timely debut follows an Afghan family’s emigration to San Francisco…Conversations often feel purposeful as Senzai educates readers about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Afghan cultural diversity, and the Qur’an’s fundamental messages of peace. But she writes with powerful, realistic detail about Fadi’s family’s experiences, particularly the prejudice Fadi finds at school after planes hit the Twin Towers and the guilt he suffers over Mariam’s disappearance. An abrupt but satisfying contrivance brings this illuminating docu-novel to a joyful conclusion, and young readers may well want to move on to the appended resources to learn more.” –Gillian Engberg, Booklist

This hard-hitting, emotionally nuanced first novel views the experiences of a family of Afghan refugees through the lens of 11-year-old Fadi…Senzai skillfully focuses Fadi’s guilt against the backdrop of this grief and his adjustments to life in Fremont, California’s Little Kabul (during 9/11); as Fadi discovers a photography club and contest that might earn him tickets to India, he fantasizes about rescuing his sister. Though cultural, religious, and political pressures persist, the satisfying surprise ending offers the family hope and redemption.” –Publisher’s Weekly

Senzai brushes into her text many facets of Muslim life and Afghan culture, as well as a considerable depth of information on Afghan history. At the same time Fadi is very much a boy of our time. The lone book that he carries with him, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, plays more than a cameo role, reminding us that the crafting of cultural identity is an active and deeply personal process, drawing from a wide range of sources, however disparate and unrelated they might seem to an observer. If the dialogue occasionally overreaches, it is easy to forgive in what is otherwise a brave and ambitious first novel with heart.” –Uma Krishnaswami, Children’s Literature

Debut novelist Senzai crafts a wrenching tale, based on her husband’s Soviet-era experience, putting a human face on the war in Afghanistan. Though the blending of fiction and exposition is uneasy at times, and the resolution too quick and reliant on coincidence, it’s an ambitious story with much to offer: a likable protagonist in Fadi, an original and engaging plot and a lens through which readers will learn much about the current conflict.” –Kirkus Reviews

“Fadi’s world is one of strong familial ties, Islam, and a vibrant, strong immigrant community. For all of Fadi’s differences from his Fremont, California classmates, he will still seem very familiar to many middle schoolers. The novel allows readers a view of a different culture and provides background for events that still plague us today.“—Steven Kral, VOYA

Groups Represented
Afghan American, Muslim American, Vietnamese American

Family relationships, immigration, cross cultural friendships, xenophobia

Afghanistan, San Francisco, CA

Author Research
From the Author’s Note: I didn’t want to write this book…really, I didn’t. I resisted it for many years…But no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, the story kept niggling the back of my mind. So finally, I was compelled to tell it. After much thought I decided to write a fictionalized account of my husband’s story while explaining the complexities and nuances of Afghan culture nd politics in a way that could be understood by young and old alike…

Although [my husband’s family and Fadi’s family’s] escapes occurred at different times and took different routes, both embarked on a perilous journey that brought them to the United States. My husband fled with his parents and younger brother, who, unlike Mariam, was not accidentally left behind. Similarly, both families dealt with the trials and tribulations of adjusting to a new life in the United States. My husband, like FAdi, grew up and adjusted to life in America as a reguee and dealt with new schools, bullies and discrimination–but both adjusted, made friends, pursued their dreams and flourished…

It saddens me that Afghanistan is yet again at a crossroads, with its people caught at the center of indecision and conflict. They are a people with a  resilient and long history, desiring peace for their children and respect from the outside world. But I, like others, still have hope–hope that peace, security, and prosperity will come, insha‘Allah.

Engagement Projects
VIEW a reading guide from the publisher

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