Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be born with the female sex and not have the right to study just for being a woman? This situation is what happens to the girl in this picture book, Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan. The book is about a girl named Nasreen, and as the synopsis indicates, the book is “based on a true story from Afghanistan, this inspiring book will touch readers deeply as it affirms both the life-changing power of education and the healing power of love.”
This beautiful book is told from the perspective of the grandmother (yes, again, I chose a book in which the grandmother has a significant role in the story). Also, it is she who, after seeing her son and daughter-in-law kidnapped, observes how her granddaughter is saddened and even stops talking. Because of this, Grandma risks everything to see that her granddaughter can attend a hidden school and be educated. Unfortunately, due to the Taliban, it was forbidden for women to go to school (among other things).
For us, it is a little challenging to think that education can be prohibited. It is unimaginable, and much incredible is that pursuing knowing can be a danger. Nevertheless, this was the day-to-day life of girls like Nasreen in Afghanistan (and probably still is). Now, this book was in the Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists in 2015. Why was this book banned? According to the American Library Association (ALA) page, it was challenged because it contained “violence,” a different “religious viewpoint” and was “unsuited to the age group” to which it was addressed.
When I read this story, I became sad, and for me, it is unacceptable that simply because I was born with the female sex, I cannot obtain an education equal to that of those born with the male sex. However, I imagine reading this to a daughter, niece, cousin, or some girl, and I see no problem. On the other hand, I think it would teach her to value the education she has and ignite the flame of wanting to fight for her rights as a woman. The book may have a somewhat strong theme because, of course, losing your parents is not something simple and much less the context in which it is presented. However, these things happen in our world, and the best way our sons and daughters can see it is by showing them through readings like these. In the end, the book has an incredible teaching, and it is that we realize how important education is and the many doors/windows it opens.
Postscript: In my work, I have the opportunity to listen to podcasts, and due to my curiosity today, I heard one that talks about the context in which the book is presented. I recommend it. It’s called “Razia’s Way: One School’s Fight for Afghanistan’s Girls” by GroundTruth. You can listen to it here.
Title: Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
Author/Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of publication: 2009
About the author.
Jeanette Winter was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1939. She is a writer and illustrator, known mostly for her children’s books. Many of them are about remarkable women in history.
Where to get the book? (click on the image)