Parvana is another displaced young girl. You might have met her in Deborah Ellis’s first two books from Afghanistan, The Breadwinner and Parvana’s Journey. If you have, you will know that this is no ordinary girl, except she is of course a normal girl to whom horrendous things have happened, and she has risen to the challenges thrown at her.
After having to dress up as a boy to become her family’s breadwinner, and after her long trek to find her family again, she lives with her mother and two sisters and the two boys she found on her journey in a refugee camp. Her mother starts a school for girls, and in My Name is Parvana we see the birth of the school, and running parallel with that, we see the end of it as well, with Parvana captured by American troops and treated as a suspected terrorist.
As with so many novels set in WWII, for instance, this book contains a lot of very horrible acts, but like the children in those other books, Parvana almost treats their abominable lives as the norm. She’s not into politics. She simply thinks about actions on her own level.
She tries to keep calm by wondering if the US soldiers are actually taught how to torture prisoners, how to endure their screams, and she wonders for what she herself might behave like they do. She reckons the key to the library might tempt her. (Her mother punishes her with periods of no reading.) And she finds she doesn’t much care for Donny Osmond.
So there are small bits of humour nestling in the tale of her captivity, as well as the rise and fall of her mother’s school for girls.
It had been so long since I read the first two books about Parvana I had almost forgotten quite how marvellous they are. But I remember now. And I will need to catch up by reading Mud City, which is about Parvana’s best friend, who dreams of going to Paris, by way of the purple lavender fields of France.
I usually say that we need the WWI and WWII novels to learn what happened. We need the books about what happens today even more. It is still going on. Too many people are getting away with too much.