Words in the Dust
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Words in the Dust

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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  1,465 ratings  ·  360 reviews
In the tradition of SHABANU, DAUGHTER OF THE WIND and THE BREADWINNER, a beautiful debut about a daughter of Afghanistan discovering new friends and opportunities after the defeat of the Taliban.

Zulaikha hopes. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her hard stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to h...more
Hardcover, 286 pages
Published January 1st 2011 by Arthur A. Levine Books
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Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery 2012
18th out of 167 books — 675 voters
Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtWords in the Dust by Trent ReedyA Monster Calls by Patrick NessInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha LaiBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Mock Newbery 2011/2012
2nd out of 39 books — 51 voters


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Community Reviews

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Betsy
A children's book, written by a soldier about an Afghani girl, set in the recent past. That's a toughie. There are a lot of easier books out there to review too. Why aren't I writing one about the adorable little girl who wants to be Little Miss Apple Pie or the one about the cute dog that wants to find its home? Well, sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone, which I suspect is what author Trent Reedy wanted to do here. With an Introduction by Katherine Paterson and enough backmatter...more
Mike Mullin
I count this among the finest first novels I've yet read. I was most impressed by the tremendous empathy, Trent Reedy, a U.S. soldier, was able to find for his main character, Zulaikha, a young Afghan girl. He wrote so deeply in her perspective that if I were told that the book was written by Zulaikha, I'd completely believe it.

Part of what makes the writing so outstanding and believable is the level of detail Words in the Dust incorporates. Reedy has obviously spend countless hours researching...more
Cheryl Klein
The usual caveat: I edited this, I'm biased, etc.

But what makes this book really, really good is first, how beautifully low-key and specific it is about Zulaikha's life in western Afghanistan -- how she and her sister do housework all day, her stepmother's coldness, the teasing and low self-esteem that come with her cleft palate; and then how naturally the world opens up for her, through learning to read at last and surgery to fix her face; and how wonderful and also painful are the changes that...more
Angela
A solid contribution to the small (but growing) "downtrodden Middle Eastern girl" genre. Zulaika has an interesting story arc, in that in the beginning her hopes and dreams are rather modest and it's only as she's exposed to the world outside of her home that she begins to dream of going to school and getting her cleft palate fixed. Her desire to gain an education doesn't come out of nowhere or from a desire to be like her brothers - it seems it generally hadn't occurred to her prior to hearing...more
Kristi
I won this book through GoodReads! Having the privilege of a first read was lots of fun! I really enjoyed this novel! The story follows the life of a young Afghan girl, Zulaikha, who, born with a cleft lip, struggles with her own self image as she comes of age. In a country previous wrought by the restrictions of the Taliban, Afghanistan is in a time of change under the presence of the American soldiers. Zulaikha comes into direct contact with American soldiers as they help her fix her cleft lip...more
Jami
I received this book through Goodreads. Words in the Dust is the story of a young Afghani girl, Zulaika, with a cleft lip and palate. The story explores her daily life in Afghanistan and the changes brought by the arrival of American soldiers. Zulaika lives in a modest dirt home with her father, stepmother, her older brother and sister (Zeynab), and her two younger brothers. Her mother had been killed years before. Initially, Zulaika's life consists of chores, as school is not even a considerati...more
Jeanine
Mar 10, 2011 Jeanine rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Jeanine by: I won it here at Goodreads
Shelves: first-reads
Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy.

This is of the YA genre but I still enjoyed reading it.

DONKEY FACE! Donkey Face! Can you imagine hearing that chant every time your mother sent you to the market? Neither can I but Zulaikha lived with it. Always pulling her chador tighter across her mouth.

Zulaikha is a young Afghani girl with a cleft palate. Zulaikha's life is not easy. Her brother and others make fun of her. The Taliban while no longer in power has violently taken her mother from her and she li...more
Sarah
Jul 18, 2012 Sarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: grades 6-8
Recommended to Sarah by: author breakfast
Sweet and caring Zulaikah is the second-oldest girl in her large family. They live in a small village in Afghanistan—a country that places a lot of importance on marriage prospects for their children. For Zulaikah, this reality is hard to take because she has a cleft palate, which makes her less desirable for a match in marriage. After watching her sister get married to an older wealthy man, Zulaikah wonders what her life will become other than helping to raise her younger siblings and doing cho...more
Sara Latta
“HEEEEE-HAAAAAW!…Donkeyface!”
For Zulaikha, a 13 year-old Afghan girl with a severe cleft lip whose front teeth stuck straight out from her mouth, the torment came on a regular basis. In her society, women are expected to marry, but who will ever want her? Even her little brother makes fun of her. She yearns to learn to read and write like her mother, killed by the Taliban because she dared to read, but that too seems to be out of her reach.
“Words in the Dust,” (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011) the...more
Naomi
POTENTIAL SPOILERS...POTENTIAL SPOILERS...POTENTIAL SPOILERS


Bravo, Mr. Reedy, Bravo...WHAT A STORY THIS BOOK IS FOR ALL AGES! To say this book isn't breaking my heart and sucked me in from page one would be a total lie. It has been several months since I have considered a YA book to be a worthwhile read and this one more than exceeds my expectations as a 43 year old woman. I am heartbroken by the treatment of the main character, Zulaikha, yet as the book continues on..that heart break turns to h...more
Michael
If you have middle schoolers/high schoolers who are finally getting tired of reading about vampires and werewolves, steer them to this wonderful novel. The most amazing thing about it is, had it been published anonymously, I would definitely have thought it was written by a woman, and probably by an Afghani woman at that. Instead, it is the debut novel of a man who served in the U.S. army in Afghanistan.

Which is amazing, since the author so deftly enters the mind of young Zulaikha, a girl whose...more
Sara
Oct 13, 2010 Sara added it
Zulaikha's life, by any measure, is limited. She is taunted by boys who call her "Donkeyface." She is bound by culture, laws, time, and war. Barely any stories of girls in Afghanistan survive the scouring forces that turn their lives into wind-blown dust. And yet, here, despite the odds, is a life painstakingly held to the light.

The author was a soldier in the Iowa National Guard and is a Facebook friend. The editor is Cheryl Klein, my editor for Operation Yes. The book is graced with the poetry...more
Kristen
I won this book on the Goodreads Giveaway.

When I first started this book I was skeptical because it was the first-person narration of a thirteen year old Afghan girl, written by a member of the US military. I got it in the mail last night and figured I would read a little bit before bed. Well, I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. I was enchanted by the young girl and everything that she and her older sister, Zeynab had to go through.

I felt like I was really inside of her home and...more
Ellie Revert
The author is a National Guardsman who served in Afghanistan in 2004, not killing bad guys, but working to improve life for the good Afghans. He tells a story about a girl that moves my heart. She was born with a cleft palate, and the US soldiers wanted to help her, and they did. Lots to learn about their culture, and he does it in a beautiful way. There are some very tough parts in that, of course. I would love to convince my SYC Book Club to select it for next season. Be SURE to read the autho...more
Marsha Nelson
Words In The Dust brings to life two young girl's plights in Afganistan after the U.S. invasion. One crippled by a birth defect, the other crippled by the culture. It gives a realistic look at what the Americans do well including medicine and jobs. But it also shows the ways in which their understanding of the culture is lacking and disrespective to the Afghani people. I really enjoyed this book and plan to share it with friends.
Ladyellie
Wonderful book, It's a great addition to my classroom library. My students enjoy reading books about other cultures and try to understand lives lived by others especially in situations such as Zulaikha's. She is a strong and brave girl, and is a great example to all the teenager girls who are going through tough times on a larger or smaller scales.
Harley May
A poignant and relevant read for both children and adults in today's political climate. As an American, I hear the word "Taliban" and get angry. Before reading this book, I had no idea what the Taliban had done to ravage Afghanistan's people and culture.

Trent Reedy is a quiet force and tells a beautiful story. Please read it.
Mitali
As Katherine Paterson puts it in her introduction to this heartwrenching debut novel, you will never read the news about Afghanistan again without remembering that you have a friend there -- a girl named Zulaikha with whom you hoped and suffered and rejoiced and prayed.
Sierra Abrams
I won this ARC copy of Words in the Dust from the Goodreads Firstreads giveaway program.


Zulaikha lives in modern Afghanistan, when the Taliban have been brought down and the Americans are still making progress in her country. She lives with her Baba (father), her Madar (mother…but not her birth mother), brothers and sister. Her father and older brother are welders and work hard to provide for the family. Zulaikha would live a very normal life…except for one thing. Her mouth. Her ugly, cleft lip,...more
Kathryn Class
What to say about this fabulous book? Hmmm. It was a surprisingling good story. I was a bit hesitant when I set out to read it because I knew it could get political and wasn't sure how the author was going to portray the Americans and the Afghan people. He was fair and compassionate about both. I took a while letting myself get into the book and like it because I was wary. I initially read it because I'm going to be leading a book club at my daughters' middle school and wondered if this book mig...more
Mary
I won a free copy of this book from Goodreads first reads.

This Young Adult novel provides a captivating look into the life of a fictional girl with a cleft palate living in Afghanistan. The main character, Zulaikha, was very believable and easy to love and cheer for. In fact, most of the characters in the novel felt very fleshed out and real.
The author introduced many aspects of life in Afghanistan in a natural way. I feel like I learned much about the culture there, with many cultural traditio...more
Danielle Larca
Words in the Dust is the story of Zulaikha, a 13-year-old Afghan girl born with a severly cleft palate. Like many Afghan girls, Zulaikah does not attend school, is unable to read or write, and spends her days tending house with her stepmother and pretty, older sister, Zeynab. Zulaikha regularly faces torment from cruel neighborhood children about her disfigured face and abuse from her stepmother, but is able to keep her dreams for a normal life someday alive.

When American soldiers roll into town...more
Jodi
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads. I enjoy reading books of the YA genre, and this was no exception. The book is recommended for children ages 9 - 13.

This is the story of a thirteen year-old Afghan girl. Zulaikha was born with a cleft lip, and this book chronicles the challenges of living with her impairment, her surgery performed by the Americans, and some of her experiences that follow.

I found the relationships in the book particularly interesting. In her daily praye...more
Melanie Coombes
Words in the Dust is the story of a young girl in Afghanistan who was born with a disfiguring cleft palate. Zulaikha's life is not easy. She is teased by the local village boys due to her appearance and dreams of looking normal like her pretty, older sister. She struggles to come to terms with her path in life. One day she meets an older woman, who begins to teach her to read and write and dream about a brighter future. When some American soldiers spot Zalaikha in the bazaar and say they can fix...more
Elizabeth
I enjoyed every minute of this book. Though Reedy is a white male portraying a young girl from Afghanistan, his portrayal is sensitive and believable.

Zulaikha tries to keep her mouth covered at all times to avoid the ridicule of people who cruelly call her "donkey-face" because of her cleft lip. Surgery has not been an option in the rural area where she lives. But when American soldiers on a peace keeping mission discover her problem, she may finally be able to get her mouth fixed.

Reedy, a soldi...more
Marsha
I started this book on Saturday morning and really couldn't stop until I finished it on Sunday night. It is a well told story of a young girl's struggle overcoming adversity. I knew with the book set in Afghanistan, that Zuluaikha was going to have a hard time of it...not only because she is a girl in a man's world or because her mother is dead and she must please the next wife or because she is poor....but because the Afghani people have been through so much.

This book shows how the beautiful na...more
Katrina Patton
I received this book as part of a Goodreads' First Reads giveaway and I am so glad I was chosen to get one because this book is fantastic!

The copy I received was an uncorrected proof but it had no effect on the readability or beauty of this story. Although I am from the US, the characters were familiar and relatable. It is simultaneously a coming of age story and a story of what it is like to grow up in today's Afghanistan. I thought it was fascinating to learn about their culture. While some pe...more
Stevecrandell
There are no clear-cut answers in this extraordinary novel, inspired by the author’s tour of military duty in Afghanistan in 2005-06. Reedy presents Afghan culture and conflict with nuance and detail. Zeynab is 15 years old. She first meets her 45-year-old husband, Tahir, on their wedding day. And her first impulse is to be happy.

Zeynab’s father is thrilled with the match because of the prestige it brings the family, yet he sincerely loves both his daughters. Tahir proves to be cruelly indiffer...more
Sheena  at Hot Eats and Cool Reads
I received this advanced readers copy through the First Reads Giveaways.

I loved that the book is fiction, but was based on some real life people and events from the author's tour of duty in Afghanistan. I was immediately drawn toward the main character Zulaikha and so wanted her to be able to take advantage of all the opportunities offered to her. This book shows her daily struggles of having a cleft lip and also of her life in Afghanistan before and after meeting the American Soldiers. This bo...more
Reader
A contemporary look at modern Afghanistan, the story follows Zukhaira. Born with a cleft upper lip and teeth askew, Zukhaira spends much of her time tending to her family and keeping to herself. A chance encounter with a woman who used to know her mother offers her the chance to learn to read. At the same time, her beautiful older sister Zeynab is getting married and the Americans in town have offered to fix the girl's lip for free. Reedy served in Afghanistan himself and offers ample background...more
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