Under the Persimmon Tree

Published By: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Juvenile Non-Fiction

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Reviewed by Diane A Brown

The Afghan war of 2001 was a vivid reminder of the brutality, anger and hatred that the division of a country can produce. Under the Persimmon Tree brings this experience to life through the perspective of Najmah, an Afghan girl, and Elaine, an American woman living in Pakistan.

Najmah lives with her father, mother and older brother in a remote village. They have little in worldly possessions, but there is a deep bond between them. When the fearful, abusive and controlling Taliban appear, food is always seized with no thought for the remaining villagers. This time is even worse for Najmah’s family. Her father and older brother are taken captive. Only Najmah and her mother remain, left to fend for themselves.

After the bombs come, Najmah is left hungry, alone and numb, but lucky to be alive. She is helped by other villagers. They change her appearance and she travels with them to a refugee camp many perilous miles away.

Elaine, her Islamic name Nusrat, is married to a fine doctor. They have come to the country so he can help his people. He is far away in dangerous territory treating those in desperate need. Nusrat was a teacher in the United States and continues to find ways to teach some of the refugee children from the compound. With no word from her husband, Nusrat longs to know of his welfare.

In time, providence brings Najmah and Nusrat together. Their friendship grows and a bond of trust is developed. But what does the future hold in this vastly devastated and war-torn country?

The overall writing was very descriptive, dramatic and direct. However, to get the clearest picture, familiarize yourself with the glossary.

I found Under the Persimmon Tree to be an excellent cultural read. It will open your eyes to a way of life that must be experienced to understand.

Armchair Interview agrees.

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