FICTION

The Eleventh Trade

304p. Macmillan. Sept. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250155764.
COPY ISBN
Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Sami and his grandfather, Baba, are Afghan refugees who recently arrived in Boston with their prized musical instrument: a rebab. When the rebab is stolen from them in a subway station, Baba loses his source of income. Determined to find the beloved instrument, Sami befriends a resourceful, tech-savvy, soccer-loving classmate, Dan, who helps Sami locate the rebab in a secondhand music store. Sami must buy it back for $700. Unbeknown to his dispirited grandfather, Sami begins a series of trades to acquire the money, starting with his Manchester United keychain for a seemingly "broken" iPod. Joining Dan's rec center soccer team, Sami makes new friends and discovers a support network of peers and adults who help him regain the rebab and adjust to his new life. Sami's first-person narration is youthful, engaging, observant, and interspersed with personal references: Pashto vocabulary and sayings, vivid recollections of his deceased mother and father, prayer and fasting customs during Ramadan, and searing memories of his escape from a Taliban suicide bombing. Sami is not immune to the harsh realities of theft, poverty, the hate speech of a classmate who labels him a terrorist, and his own recurring nightmares of explosions, death, and harrowing escape. Background information on the Taliban insurgency and U.S. military in Afghanistan is minimal.
VERDICT Sami's story sheds light on the special challenges, determination, faith, resilience, and post-traumatic stress that impact and shape the lives of many refugees.

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