Date Completed: 12/9/2016
One Half from the East is the story of Obayd, a boy whose family turned him from girl into boy, called bacha posh, in Afghanistan in order to bring hope to the family. Obayd, once known as Obayda, is called upon to be the boy of the family and bring hope for his father, mother, and three sisters. He is told to play, to run errands alone in public, and to go to school as a boy. At first he is wary of this new responsibility, and sure that everyone will see right through him and never accept him as a boy, but he soon realizes the freedom this decision affords him and takes control of his life.
I really like the dialogue this opens up about gender/gender-roles in different countries including the US. Is there really that much difference between boys and girls? And what is it that truly separates them? These are the questions raised in Hashimi’s book.
I also think it’s incredibly important to have more Afghani fiction, especially stories like this that don’t demonize the culture. America seems often to be blind or ignorant to Middle Eastern cultures and how they actually function, so it’s great to see an Afghani-American author writing stories like this that challenge global thought.
Hashimi also opens up discussion around what it means to have a disability. She attempts to show readers that it is not the end of the world and also that family and friendships can help combat some of challenge that present of fitting into society with disabilities. Obayd’s father is disabled in an accident at the beginning of the story, and it takes nearly the entire book for him to come around, but in the end, he is supported by his family and finds a new way to bring himself joy and to fit in.
Nadia Hashimi is American-born, the daughter of Afghani immigrants. Both of her parents were well-educated and kept her Afghani heritage a part of her life. She’s currently the author of four books, including The Pearl that Broke its Shell, and you can find out more about her at her website.