review: Wanting Mor

Posted on 12 January 2010 Tuesday


review:  Wanting Mor

Author: Rukhsana Khan

date: 2009; Groundwork Books

main character: Jameela

The title is so different. Is it spelled wrong? What does it mean? Does someone want more?

The title is actually the first clue how deeply we will be taken into another culture. We’re transported to Afganistan and as I was reading opening scenes with Jameela’s mother dying and Jameela moving into the caretaking role her mother once held, I was wondering exactly when this story was taking place. It was beginning to feel like one of those timeless foreign stories where everyone is poor, technology is non-existent and you envision everything in black, white and gray.

Her father seemed  like an outsider because he doesn’t speak much and the women of the village don’t like him. I don’t think we’re ever told exactly what he looks like, what he thinks or what motivates him. His character is never developed in this story, but it doesn’t need to be! In not developing him, Khan does an amazing job of creating the most worthless and loathsome of male parents (I cannot call him a father.) He decides to move to the city where he may be able to find the type of life he is seeking. In this move to Kabul, we realize the story is set in modern day Afghanistan that has been invaded by US military forces and we see some of the effects of what they have brought to the country.

Living closely with the women of her village, Jameela learns to value a traditionally Islamic lifestyle. Khan uses Arabic and Afgan terms as they would exist in Jameela’s world. There was a point where Jameela was referring to something from the perspective of her faith. In western writings, the same thing would have been described from a Christian perspective and it was eye opening in this moment of difference, to really see a commonality. However, upon reading that, I also realized that most Americans will have a very hard to reading this book.  Adolescents curious about the world around them would enjoy the authenticity of this story.

Khan used ill-defined characters to show us the best and worst of Afghan society with the worst being those who would abuse and abandon children and the best being those would reach out to strangers, offering their home, food or whatever they had to give. We all want more, some of us think we can get it by using people and acquiring things while others think we can obtain more by giving up things to help others.

Wherever Jameela’s father took her, wherever she lived, Jameela immediately assumed the role of a servant. She would cook, clean and serve tea yes, because she was a woman, but also because of her class. Because of where she came from, she was locked into the role of a servant. As a servant, Jameela couldn’t even read. One of the last places Jameela went was an orphanage and while here, Jameela was given the opportunity to learn. Both her age and her strong determination to learn allowed her to quickly excel in class and she soon began to teach other younger students. She developed a relationship with her teacher because of their interest in learning and in their faith. Jameela was able to read books that helped deepen her understanding in what she thought she believed all her life. Once she could read the Koran and related texts, she began to understand her faith more fully. Jameela’s life changed in many ways and many possibilities began to open up to her.

Not only does Wanting Mor take us to another world, but it introduces us to a meek little girl who blossoms into a young lady with endless capabilities.

Based on a true story about a girl who ended up in one of the orphanages Rukhsana sponsors in Afghanistan through the royalties of her book

book source:borrowed from  my school library

ASIA!

Posted in: Book Reviews