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Seventh Grade Skypes with N.H. Senzai

The seventh grade had the opportunity to Skype  with N.H. Senzai, the author of Shooting Kabul. The novel, which is and important current read in the seventh grade English class, follows an Afghan family’s escape from Afganistan and subsequent emigration to San Francisco.

The AFS Middle School English Department spends time  2 every summer reviewing, writing and revising curriculum. Choosing books is central to this planning, selecting books that reflect Quaker testimonies, are of high interest to students, and are of high literary quality including elements such as symbolism, extended metaphor, beautiful language, and that open opportunities for discussion and critical thinking. Said teacher Anu Gosh “After lots of reading and research, we found Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai two summers ago sitting on the floor at the Barnes and Noble YA section surrounded by piles of books.”

Shooting Kabul is about the traumatic escape of 11 year old, Fadi Nurzai and his family, from Afghanistan and the oppressive rule of the Taliban. During the escape, the youngest member of the family, 6 year old Mariam, gets left behind in a gut-wrenching scene. This awful event scars the family, especially Fadi, whose singular focus is to find his sister again. However, he makes plans to find his sister, he encounters many obstacles along the way. He must acclimate to life in the United States, and deal with the aftermath of 9/11 as an Afghan immigrant now living in the US. The novel is based on the author’s husband’s family’s experience fleeing from the Taliban and leaving their ancestral home.

During the Skype session the author explained that she is an accountant by trade, but felt that while she was apprehensive, that she also felt compelled to write this story. She shared how important it was to make sure that the historical and cultural aspects of the story were accurate, as she herself is not Afghan and she did not want to disrespect the culture and experience of her in-laws and the Afghan people. Students asked many questions during the Skype session, and she answered each question thoughtfully and honestly. She was engaging and even asked students questions about their opinions and perspectives on characters and events in the novel.

Reading this book pushed our students to think deeply and talk and write passionately about morals and ethics, race, stereotypes, family traditions, cultural norms and values, Afghan culture, Pukhtun culture, Islam, modern US and World history, current events such as the Syrian refugee crisis, upstanders such as Malala Yousafzai, and so much more.

The seventh grade concluded their reading of the novel by celebrating Afghan culture with an Afghan Feast.

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