The Deborah Ellis Installments (Part II): My Name is Parvana

As promised, here is Book#4 in the Breadwinner Series, My Name is Parvana by Deborah Ellis.

In this last book, we meet an older Parvana. She is 15-years old now, and has been through more heartbreaking tragedy. When the story opens, Parvana is in prison. She has been captured by American soldiers, while wandering through a bombed-out school site. As we follow Parvana through her ordeal in prison, the story jumps back into the past to fill in the gaps with what has transpired since we last met her. Ellis does a fantastic job of superimposing the past on the present. Parvana is no longer the feisty young girl with a quick tongue. No, now she holds her tongue to create a deafening silence when questioned by the American soldiers. Over and over and over and over again. Yes, Parvana has matured. And logically so, because she has lost more, and made more difficult and selfless choices. Her innocence is replaced with shrewdness and air-tight resolve. If she was strong when we were first introduced to her, she possess mammoth strength now. If, as readers, we admired her courage and smarts in the beginning, we will love her for these now. Ellis reaches into the soul of Parvana’s character and brings her to life. She makes her feel like a real person. And therein lies a huge portion of Ellis’ talent; her ability to make her characters come to life. It is no wonder we feel a closeness to them. Ellis does a great justice connecting her audience to children around the world who have no voice to fight for themselves. In this series, and finally, in this book, Ellis gives them all a voice. Especially through Parvana’s silence while she is in prison, we see the grace and bravery with which this young girl operates.

Teachers, your students can compare Parvana’s life to their own. They can make connections and then draw contrasts. They also get to understand a bit about how things work in military prisons in areas of war. This book can even be done with older grades (intermediates – 7 & 8) as a stand-alone with a thorough backstory provided. Students can jump into the psychology behind scare tactics and how prisoners are treated in war-torn countries, even if they are innocent, and even if they are children. You can use this as an opportunity to talk about bigger concepts in their basic form, such as different types of governments and their structures, democracy, justice and injustice, the effects of perception on belief. Your students can further see hope and sacrifice at one of their bests through the many sacrifices made by different characters, and the hope kept alive by others.

Teachers, you can also talk about the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan Organization and their not-for-profit endeavours to improve the lives of women in war-ridden countries such as Afghanistan. Deborah Ellis is a true genius at her work, and she has the passion to make her work endearing and relatable.

So, even if you don’t actually end up teaching this last book, you yourself will find it a worthwhile read. To say it is an eyeopener would be too much of a cliché.

 

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