Razia’s Ray of HopePosted: April 19, 2013
With a world of outstanding kiddie-lit blogs already in existence, it was never my intention to use this blog for book reviews. As a teacher-librarian, children’s books feature prominently in my daily life, but I’ll leave reviewing to the experts.
Except today. Today calls out for this review. Full disclosure here, I am privy to this book pre-publication because it was written by my sister-in-law. But that is not why I am reviewing it. The events of this week are why.
Boston is my home. Although I live in a suburb thirty miles away, The Hub (as Bostonians refer to it) is my city—the place I look to for culture, dining and my beloved Red Sox. And this week we are in mourning. The senseless and sickening Boston Marathon bombing, followed by the horrific events that are still now unfolding, need a counterpoint. They need a ray of hope.
Razia’s Ray of Hope, written by Elizabeth Suneby and illustrated by Suana Verelst, is a fictionalized account of the building of the Zabuli Education Center, a school for girls, in the Afghan village of Deh’Subz. Told through the eyes of a young girl who dreams of an education for herself, it is a slice of life story beginning with the laying of the first stones of the school and ending with Razia’s enrollment.
Although Razia has the support of her baba gi (grandfather), her father and brothers refuse at first to give her permission to attend the new school. Limited by their own upbringing, their concern about losing Razia’s contribution to the family’s income and their fear for her safety, they initially say “no” after a family council meeting. It isn’t until a visit from Razia Jan (the founder of the school) and an assurance of safety that they begin to understand that allowing Razia (the young protagonist shares the name of the real life founder) to attend is good for the family, the village and the country.
Razia Jan says, “I ask for your tolerance, if not support…If men are the backbone of Afghanistan, then women are the eyes…without an education, we will all be blind.”
This story is beautifully and honestly written. As part of the Kids Can Press “Citizen Kid” series (“a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens”), it serves as a powerful introduction to the lives of women and children in Afghanistan and the power of education to change those lives. It is an accessible story for children young and old. Enhanced by multi-media illustrations that capture both the beauty and harsh realities of the small village, this book truly does provide a ray of hope on this dark and gray day in Boston.
For more information about Razia (who was honored as a CNN Top Ten Hero of 2012, an honor which goes to ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things ) and her Ray of Hope Foundation where the belief that “education is key to positive, peaceful change for current and future generations”, please go to http://www.raziasrayofhope.org/.