Rummanah Aasi

Description: Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune. Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room. One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh. Now Obayda is Obayd.
  Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more. But their transformation won’t last forever—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Review: After Obayda’s father loses his leg in a car-bomb attack, her family is forced to move in with extended family in a village far from Kabul. As her father lies housebound and despondent, an aunt advises Obayda’s mother to make Obayda a bacha posh in order to bring good luck to their homes. Bacha posh, or preteen girls dressed in boys’ clothing and treated like boys, are a tradition in some parts of Afghanistan. These disguised boys are allowed to leave their homes and hold jobs in order to help their families financially. Once Obayda becomes Obayd, she is excused from house chores and other female responsibilities. Now Obayd is frightened of facing the boys at school, especially Rahim, an older boy who singles her out. Brave, athletic, and brash, Rahim sees right through Obayda’s disguise—because Rahim, too, is a bacha posh. The two, now allies, share many free-spirited adventures, including searching for a waterfall they believe will turn them into boys permanently (notably because they enjoy the values attached to the male gender and  not because they identify as males), since the specter of their return to the female underclass is always present, horrifyingly so in Rahim’s case.
 The theme of gender inequality is very strong in the book, but it becomes repetitive and redundant due to the lack of plot in the book. We are told that girls and boys are treated differently, but I wish this was shown more in the story. Obayd is not so different from Obayda in terms of  character arc. To me she was not interesting enough as a main character. For the lack of a better world, this book felt too sanitized for a younger audience. I was more intrigued by Rahima and I later found out that the author did a whole book on on Rahima called The Pearl That Broke Its Shell. I was also disappointed that there is no movement to women's empowerment in the story and it is overshadowed by the arrival of a baby brother who will once again bring luck to the family in the future. Still One Half from the East allows readers a sneak peek into the traditional culture of Afghanistan that is not seen and represented in literature. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is mention of suicide bomb, drug addicts, and child marriage. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi, The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai
1 Response
  1. Too bad this one doesn't work as it's a great premise. It made me think a bit of the Breadwinner in its description.

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