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Shooting Kabul

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In the summer of 2001, twelve-year-old Fadi's parents make the difficult decision to illegally leave Afghanistan and move the family to the United States. When their underground transport arrives at the rendezvous point, chaos ensues, and Fadi is left dragging his younger sister Mariam through the crush of people. But Mariam accidentally lets go of his hand and becomes lost in the crowd, just as Fadi is snatched up into the truck. With Taliban soldiers closing in, the truck speeds away, leaving Mariam behind.

Adjusting to life in the United States isn't easy for Fadi's family, and as the events of September 11th unfold the prospects of locating Mariam in a war torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Based in part on Ms. Senzai's husband's own experience fleeing his home in Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in the 1970's, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published June 22, 2009

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About the author

N.H. Senzai

6 books170 followers
I grew up speaking two languages, balancing life lived on the edge of two cultures, and, happily, two cuisines—tandoori chicken and hot dogs, grilled side by side on the 4th of July. I got on a plane for the first time at two months, in Chicago, IL, where I was born, and have been travelling ever since. I grew up in San Francisco, Jubail, Saudi Arabia, and attended boarding school in London, England where I was voted “most likely to lead a literary revolution” due to my ability to get away with reading comic books in class. I’ve hiked across the Alps, road-tripped through Mexico, swum with barracudas in the Red Sea, taken a train across the Soviet Union, floated down the Nile, eaten gumbo in New Orleans and sat in contemplation at the Taj Mahal. Somewhere along the way I attended UC Berkeley and Columbia University, picked up a couple of degrees, while pursuing my passion for writing. I’ve landed back home in San Francisco where I live with my husband, a professor of political science, my son, and a cat who owns us. During the day I can be found working for a consulting firm that helps companies with their inventions and patents.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 899 reviews
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,480 followers
June 21, 2017
Shooting Kabul is an absolutely great book for kids in 3rd grade and up. It is the story of Fadi and his battle with his conscience after he loses his sister Mariam as his family is fleeing to Pakistan from their native Afghanistan terrorized by the Taliban. Particularly now, with the issues of Syrian refugees taking headlines, this is an important demonstration of the values of challenging banalized racism, adapting to a new country (Fremont, CA is where Fadi's family is welcomed by their cousins), and pursuing your dreams. I admit having damp eyes at the end.
Easily a 5-star read as a parent to your 3rd grade kid - an immeasurably precious moment spent together speaking about the things about our troubled world which they have a hard time expressing. I cannot say enough about this truly wonderful book!
1 review
December 18, 2010
As a jh reading teacher who is trying to cover a multi-cultural classroom, I am going to teach this as a unit. This book covers stereotypes, bravery, family love and loyalty in a refreshing book for teens. Thanks N.H. Senzai for giving me a platform that will definitely impact students (EVEN boys!). By the way....I NEVER cry....I was crying!!!! That is quite the accomplishment. I couldn't put the book down and finished it in a few hours.
Profile Image for Amber.
236 reviews35 followers
October 27, 2019
Its no Khalid Husseini account of Afghanistan but its heart warming and beautifully written painful account of the story of one refugee family....being a Pakistani I didnt have to look up glossary for 'foreign' words used in the book though its a huge help to those unfamiliar with the cultural traditions and languages of our region. I'd want every one to read this book just to get a perspective on the struggle of the wonderfully brave People of Afghanistan and their associates in Pakistan, goes a long way to show how they've suffered and still stay hopeful and resilient!
Thoughts and prayers with Afghanistan as always :)
Profile Image for Cass (all too tired).
295 reviews110 followers
February 22, 2021
3.75 stars

Should I be surprised that a book published 11 years ago is still relevant today? Yes.
Am I surprised? Not really.

TW: bullying, a brief scene of fat shaming, and racism

Shooting Kabul is about Fadi, a pre-teen (did it mention his age? I don't remember) who is escaping Afghanistan with his family, but then he loses his grip on his little sister and loses her in the crowd. Fadi's family ends up leaving her behind and escaping to San Francisco. Fadi blames himself and thinks it's his fault, but slowly he realizes that everyone blames themselves. He enters a photography competition in order to get tickets to fly back to save his sister.

Most books can't do what this book did. This book tackled racism, stereotypes, family dynamics, and so much more in this small 272 paged book. And on top of that set this before, during, and after 9/11.

The detail in the photography scenes was beautiful, I want to see these shots that Ahn and Fadi took. I love how N.H. Senzai gave each character a life of their own (except for Ike and Felix, but whatever). Each of them have a past and interests and they aren't just plot devices for the story.

The family dynamics were also brilliantly written. I loved Noor, she was mean at first, but she grew on me.
"Idiotic for sure, but ballsy.
Really only a big sister could say this and get away with it, maybe a good best friend, but this is such a big sister line.

I wish that we got to go in deeper with the cousins and the rest of the family. I feel that it could have added to the story and the plot and given the story a bit more dimension.

Also, in between the chapters was choppy, as soon as one scene ends another begins, but not where I left off. There needs to be a connecting piece, not for all of them, just for some of them.

All in all an amazing book, would recommend to anyone above the age of ten.
Profile Image for Ashleigh Rose.
320 reviews9 followers
March 16, 2012
As a middle school English teacher, I found this book so impressive, especially for the audience for which it is written. The book covers issues of racism, classism, bullying, guilt, and loss (to name a few.) The story was incredible and while this is a short read for an adult I loved every moment of it and can't wait to share it with my high-readers!
15 reviews
April 26, 2016
This book is about a family fleeing from a chaotic situation, but lost their beloved sister Mariam along the way. Fadi is heartbroken and is trying to find every way possible to get his sister back, and along the way there were huge accidents that affected both him and his family. Will he find his sister, or live his entire life without her? Loving, amazing, well-written true immigrant experience. - Miu Miu :D
12 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2013
Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai is an enthralling story -- based off a true one -- about the strength of bonds between siblings and a family, hope, and perseverance against all odds. It is a truly inspiring, amazing book, and I would recommend it to almost anyone.

The story begins in Kabul, Afghanistan, home of the main character, Fadi, and his family -- younger sister Mariam, older sister Noor, and his mother and father. His family had left Afghanistan for America so his father could get a PhD, but they came back to Afghanistan afterwards, at first to help the Taliban. However, the Taliban quickly became over-controlling and overly zealous, and when they asked Fadi's father -- more like demanded -- to become a part of them, he knew he couldn't turn down their offer without forsaking his family's safety. So instead, they used up their entire savings paying for professionals to take them out of the country. In the confusion, though, Mariam's hand slips from Fadi's and their vehicle drives away at full speed from the approaching Taliban. Fadi's family's attempts to stop it are in vain, and Mariam is left behind in war-torn Afghanistan while the family reaches America.

But even once they've finally escaped Afghanistan, things are only getting more difficult. Penniless, Fadi's family has to live with their relatives, and they are embarrassed to be taking such advantage of their courtesy, though they insist they don't mind. Fadi is bullied at school and has to deal with the terrible guilt that Mariam's loss is his fault. It isn't, of course -- and the whole family is dealing with the same feelings, each shouldering the guilt for themselves and obstinately refusing to believe it isn't their fault.

In the midst of this chaos of guilt and horror at the loss of Mariam, when it seems like things can't get any worse, comes 9/11. Now the bullies at Fadi's school have a new thing to fight him over, and he's surrounded by prejudice and accusation because of where he came from.

But then, at school, he finds a photo contest. The prize? A trip to India, from which he could reach Afghanistan and find his missing sister. Photography is Fadi's special talent, his true love in life, and he's confident and certain he just has to win.

Overall, Shooting Kabul was an amazing and intriguing book, told through the eyes of an earnest, hopeful child that really helped me relate to it, even if I didn't have the same experiences as him. It taught me a lot about 9/11 and the Taliban, a different side to them I'd never really thought about. The book flowed easily and was excellently written, and the ending was sweet and very clever. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good, suspenseful, and often surprising read.
Profile Image for Shazzer.
751 reviews21 followers
February 24, 2011
As posted on Outside of a Dog:

There are some books that carry so much weight, it’s miraculous they get off the ground at all. It can be story weight or character weight, or outside weight from press or advertising. Mockingbird was a very weighty book. Katherine Erskine had to juggle Asperger’s Syndrome, a dead sibling and a community recovering from a school shooting, and I think that the weight of it all put together caused the book to drag its feet on the ground, unable to hold it all in. Shooting Kabul, by N.H. Senzai is another heavy book, but what a difference the right touch can make.

In Shooting Kabul, young Fadi and his family make a daring escape from Afganistan and the Taliban to seek asylum in the United States. But before they can make it out of the city, Fadi is separated from his little sister Mariam, and she is left behind. The family finally lands in Fremont, California, and they try to make themselves a new home while back in Afganistan, the seach is on for the missing Mariam. Fadi blames himself, you see, for letting go of his little sister’s hand in the confusion, and knows he must help bring her back, no matter what it will take. That’s an extraordinary weight to lay on a child, but it does not stop there. Fadi also has to deal with post-9/11 prejudice, especially from a pair of bullies at his new school. He finds hope and a creative outlet in the school’s photography club, which just might offer him a chance of returning to look for his sister.

This book is a small miracle. Senzai is cooking with every burner, and the heat is on high. Considering the unfamiliar (to me) Arabic vocabulary and the extremely heavy subject matter, this book reads like a dream. I ran through it in less than a day, and I don’t feel like I missed anything or shorted myself in any way. I felt thoroughly rewarded by the book, and that is a rare experience. The moment when the truck rolls away, leaving Mariam behind is truly heartbreaking. It made me gasp. Everything that followed was graceful and believable, and handled with a deft touch. If this is how Senzai juggles, I can’t wait to see what else she might have up her sleeve.
6 reviews4 followers
February 1, 2016
What was the biggest decision in your life? How difficult was it? Was it as difficult as leaving everything behind and not knowing if you'll be alive the next day?In the book, Shooting Kabul
by N. H. Senzai, Fadi's parents made a very difficult decision to leave their past life behind in Afghanistan and start a new chapter in their life in America. Fadi's mother is sick and needs better health care, and the Taliban wants Fadi's father to join their group. On the day of their escape, they go through some big bumps in the road.
I could not stop reading this book. Each chapter had a new surprise or shock to the story line. This is one of my new favorite books. The way the author described how the characters felt in different situations almost made me go back to situations where I felt like that, and I could really connect to the characters like to connect the plot and to the setting. I recommend this book to people that are going through rough times and adapting to different locations. For example being a new kid at a new school This book also has some history in it. For example it takes place in 2001, when the US was under attack by Al Qaeda.
I would pick this book up any day and reread it. It taught me to not judge a person by their appearance or their nationality, because they can be a great person inside.
Profile Image for Angela.
1,175 reviews22 followers
October 6, 2010
My Kid/Teen Critics say to read this one.

I really loved this book. It was about a boy and his family escaping from Afghanistan before 9/11. Everything is going well, until his little sister gets lost in the scramble to get on a bus out. Once they get to America, the boy tries to figure out a way to get his sister back, while suffering teasing at school. I highly recommend it to anyone older than ten.
Reviewed by: Anne Age:13
Profile Image for Alison Strandell.
189 reviews4 followers
July 23, 2016
This story opened my eyes to some of the culture and people of Afghanistan, including in this case a family who came to America for a safer life. The theme that all members of our diverse human race deserve a fair chance at happiness and success is so important. Also, the novel kept me guessing and had a clever ending.
Profile Image for Joeben.
23 reviews
October 29, 2014
Fadi was just a normal kid with a normal life in afganistan, when the Taliban arrives they flee to america. But when 9/11 happens, every thing goes downhill as the search for his little sister gets a lot more complicated.
Profile Image for Amanda .
675 reviews13 followers
March 14, 2020
I really liked this story within a story. When Fadi's parents illegally flee Afghanistan, Fadi's little sister Mariam accidentally gets left behind in the rush to flee the Taliban. Fadi's family is devastated as they try to search for Mariam from their new home base in the U.S. Every family member faces the private guilt of feeling like they failed Mariam.

Meanwhile, the events of 9/11 occur as Fadi has been newly installed at his school and he and others like him (ie non whites) face bullying, racism, and hatred. Shooting Kabul is a story about the power of love and what can happen if a person has enough determination and persistence to let their love for a person drive them.
1 review
February 5, 2017
Although I had been attracted to this novel due to having previously read The Kite Runner, Shooting Kabul by N.H Senzai is its own uniquely captivating story of a family's struggle, hope, diversity, and cultural prejudice.

The story begins in Kabul, Afghanistan where the protagonist Fadi lives with his father Habib, mother Zafoona, and siblings Noor and Mariam. Fadi’s family had previously left Afghanistan so Habib could complete his Ph.D. in agriculture, but had returned to help the Taliban and his country prosper. Slowly, the Taliban had evolved from heroes that had defeated the Soviets, to a controlling and dangerous group. One day, the Taliban come knocking at Fadi’s home, requesting Habib to become the Taliban’s ambassador to the UN. Realising that his family's safety would be at risk if he declined the offer, Habib and his family are forced to flee Afghanistan. Using their savings, they are able to pay for smugglers to bring them out of Afghanistan into neighbouring Pakistan. The plan was to wait for the truck at a designated spot. During their escape, Fadi is stopped by Mariam to place Mariam's doll into his backpack. All was going to plan until the Taliban unexpectedly appeared. During the ensuing commotion, Fadi lost grip of Mariam's hand, leaving Mariam behind in Kabul. Despite multiple attempts to find Mariam, Fadi and his family were forced to take asylum in the United States without Mariam before the window closed.

Life isn't easy in Fremont. Habib is forced to take a job as a cab driver, and Noor works at McDonald's to help with the bills. Guilt about leaving Mariam behind follows the family like a shadow but hits Fadi especially hard. Fadi and his family plan a way to find Mariam, going as far as hiring private investigators. Fadi starts middle school and is encouraged to join the photography club. Unexpectedly, Fadi discovers an opportunity to redeem his honor in the form of a photography contest. A contest with the grand prize of a new digital camera and a plane ticket for two to either India, China, or Kenya. Realizing how close India was to Afghanistan, Fadi commits his efforts to win the contest in hopes of gaining an opportunity to find Mariam and regain his honour.

Shooting Kabul was an interesting novel that carried with it a heavy subject and important lesson. The lesson of the novel is to never lose hope. What I enjoyed about this book is its ability to turn a complicated history lesson into understandable story. Many things are to be learned through this book such as the history of Afghanistan and the Taliban. In addition, the utilisation of Arabic language with a glossary created an intriguing and realistic cultural element to the novel. Moreover, as a reader, I had felt that the characters in the novel are easily relatable. The character I related to the most was Fadi, who felt overwhelming guilt and had blamed himself for what happened. It would be a lie to say that guilt has never caused me to blame myself. Shooting Kabul by N.H Senzai is a novel I would suggest to readers who enjoy historical fiction, or readers who seek a captiavting story.
Profile Image for Cesar Cruz.
5 reviews2 followers
Currently reading
October 28, 2016
The story, " Shooting Kabul" is a about a boy and his family. THis book goes through the sad adventure and the struggels they went through. 11-year-old Fadi and his family gently and silenty board a truck.THey did this to begin their escape from Afghanistan. When they were geting onto the tall truck, His six-year-old sister, Mariam lets go of her brother's hand and is tragically left behind. This part in the story made me have empthay for the poor girl. How frightend she would be. How she wouldnt know what to do.
Their plan was to leave Afghanistan and get to America. But their plan went horrible. Their arrival in San Francisco is very bad. They are all too concerned about Mariam to appreciate their hard work , and that there no war here. That it is all nice and peacefull at times.
All the boy is worried about getting his sister back .He begins middle school with the memeroy and the guilt that leaving Mariam behind was his fault, and he will do anything to get her back. But one tragic thing that they had to see , was the tragic nine-eleven. Since this was done by talliban, the kids from his school made his life more misarable. They made fun of him and they called him names. They had no respect for him. They didnt know how hard his life been already.
One of the things he does remeber about her is pictures. He looks at pictures remebr how she looks. One of the things he try to do is join the photography club at his school. he club will be entering a contest where the first place winner gets a new camera and a trip to China, Kenya, or India. Realizing how close India is to Afghanistan, Fadi tells himself he must win in order to return and find Mariam.
The author of this book sets a new type of theme. She puts a theme that is sad, happy, and guilty. She does this by making us feel bad about Miraim, 9/11, and the family. This is a book that is easy to remeber because of how she put her own mind into . This book makes me think that the author has had this pain before because she make it feel so real.
Profile Image for bjneary.
2,354 reviews82 followers
July 27, 2011
I sooo loved this book! A great book for middle/jr high as well as high school for its depiction of a Muslim family fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9-11. Fadi and his family have tried to stay in their beloved country but the war has driven them from their home. Fadi's father, Habib, has paid the last of their money to flee their homeland. Fadi's family is close-knit, loving, and care deeply for each other. Fadi's mother, Zafoona, is ill and his sister, Noor, is helping her escape and Fadi is responsible for Mariam, his little sister. It is when they are leaping from one truck to another, that the Taliban attacks, and Mariam breaks away to pick up her doll, that Fadi loses his grip on his little sister. Once the family reaches safety in the United States, they try to locate their precious family member, in whatever way they can. Fadi begins school in a country very foreign to him, but he makes friends and also experiences bullying because he is Muslim. What I really enjoyed was how Fadi mentions his favorite book, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and how he relates to Claudia and her escapades in the museum. Fadi loves photography and uses his father's camera which took many a picture in Kabul. It is this love of photography that inspires Fadi to join a school contest in which the winner will win a trip---and Fadi is determined to win that trip and return his lost little sister to their heartbroken family. Fadi has so many things against him but he also has determination and with his new found friend, Anh, they both hope to bring Mariam home---but, will they succeed? This such a great book, great characters, believable plot, and the themes of belonging resonate in each chapter of this wonderful book.

2 reviews4 followers
June 17, 2018
You should read this book because it focuses on world problems that are happening currently.Their mom is extremely sick and their dad doesn’t earn much money. Their older sister Noor works at Mcdonalds. Fadi, the main character, does many things to try to find their sister Mariam. Mariam got left behind when the family was trying to leave Afghanistan to America.
Fadi had a lot of trouble of making new friends but then he met this girl who had become his friend the girl name was Anh. Anh and Fadi were both very interested in photograph. Anh ended up telling Fadi that if they win in a photograph contest they get a free ticket to India and other places. Fadi was very happy and very determine to win because he knew he had to do this for Mariam and save her.
Fadi could not resist, he had to. He got the ticket his old ticket from when he came and left. He got in his dad taxi which takes him to the airport.
The family ends up getting a phone call they ended up finding out that a family had resuced Mariam but they had lost her again. Anh and Fadi find the results if they won. They both lost. Later on the tragic day ever 9/11. After 9/11 they were faced as enemies since they were muslims. People looked at them a different way just cause of there race. They ended up facing racial and religious issues.
So, if you like books the focus on world problems, talks about family and new friendships and a bit of mystery, I HIGHLY recommend this book for you.
Profile Image for Zayn Singh.
51 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2010
Shooting Kabul is probably one of the most loving and compassionate novels I have ever read. A family living in Afghanistan during the time when the Afghans and the Soviet Union were at war. With the Taliban threatening everyone, Fadi's family decides to leave Afghanistan illegally. They travel to Jalalabad to catch a ride to Peshawar, Pakistan. When the truck arrives to take them to Peshawar, Maraim, Fadi's little sister, is left behind, due to Fadi's mistake of letting go of her hand. The rest of the family makes it safely but they are worried about Mariam.

After a couple of weeks later Fadi joins a photo club where a competition takes place. It includes a photo shoot in India or Africa. Fadi uses this as his chance to get Mariam back and reclaim his honor. Will he succeed, or will his honor be lost forever?
Profile Image for Per-Nik.
12 reviews
October 21, 2014
Fadi is a boy stuck in Afghanistan and all he wants to do is get out, but when his family tries to escape the Taliban attack the meeting point for the traffickers and his little sister is left behind. So when he gets to the US, Fadi tries multiple times to try and find solutions to finding his sister. One day he discovers a photography competition and enters hoping to get the grand prize which is a trip to India. A chance to find his sister. He doesn't receive the prize in the end, but when he goes to the convention and flips through a photo book of a photographer who takes pictures in war zones, he finds a picture of his sister and eventually finds her and they get her home. Shooting Kabul is about loss, bravery and helping others.
Profile Image for Jenny Zimmerman.
120 reviews12 followers
January 2, 2017
I loved this book. It's a good sort of entry-level novel to the topic of Afghanistan for my students. I could see students reading this one first and moving on to Kite Runner and other stories from there. I think the story is powerful and important. I am excited for my students to read this novel. It is one of the books I recently got funded for my classroom on Donors Choose. Students will be able to choose this one for literature circles, and I think they'll like it. I hope it opens their eyes to the story behind Fadi's immigration to the United States and to the complicated history of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Profile Image for KarenMLISt.
248 reviews12 followers
March 14, 2015
A page-turner that elicits the anxiety, fear, depression, and love that this family deals with through the trauma of leaving their homeland & the humility involved. A worthy read with themes of family & friendship that allow hope to stay alive.

Merged review:

A page-turner that elicits the anxiety, fear, depression, and love that this family deals with through the trauma of leaving their homeland & the humility involved. A worthy read with themes of family & friendship that allow hope to stay alive.
Profile Image for Biblio Curious.
233 reviews8,282 followers
July 29, 2017
It's a great book for starting a conversation with children, 8-12 about the complexities of Afghanistan people and the surrounding issues. It covers topics at an age appropriate level for racism, 'immigration experience,' Islam, war, Pashtun Code of Ethics, culture shock, family tensions and even teen dating. The oldest daughter takes on an after school job to help out financially, so you could also branch out into socio-economic issues.

My spoiler free review:
3 reviews
November 17, 2020
N.H. Senzai is one of my favorite writers. She is an expert at capturing and communicating the emotions of the characters in her stories. I could feel their feelings as if they were my own. I cried over her descriptions of the tragedies in Afghanistan. The story teaches an important lesson about blaming yourself for things you had no control over, and how that can affect people's lives. I would recommend this book to anyone over age 10. It might be too intense and sad for younger kids.
116 reviews
January 3, 2017
"Shooting Kabul" was one of the best books I have ever read! The story line is amazing, the characters are interesting and the whole situation just sucks you in. I literally became addicted to that book because you get to feel what immigrants and people who don't fit in feel like. I really learned a lot from that book about feelings and Afghanistan. On top of that, N.H. Senzai does an amazing job portraying the characters! This is definitely a must-read!
December 18, 2017
I read this book aloud to my 5th graders and it was wonderful. While they were skeptical at the beginning on whether they were going to enjoy it, by the end they couldn't get enough of it! The book evoked a strong range of emotions from my students and provided us with rich and powerful discussions about prejudice, racism, fear, anger, bullying, and love.
Profile Image for Josie.
6 reviews1 follower
December 2, 2018
I hated this book. We were forced to read it in ELA, or English Language Arts, and it was the worst! Fadi is one of the dumbest narrators ever, thinking that he can just sneak onto a plane without getting caught, and find Mariam among all the fleeing immigrants. Ughhhh! And don't get me started on that sketchy scene with Noor and that guy in the alley. I do not recommend it.
Profile Image for Ben.
21 reviews39 followers
November 21, 2016
Very emotional and thought provoking. great for younger kids in book clubs (I read it with my daughter for a book club.)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 899 reviews

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