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When 10-year-old Obayda’s father loses his leg in a bomb explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, he is no longer able to work, and the family’s well-being is threatened. Obayda’s parents decide to move to the village where the father grew up and his relatives still live. Obayda soon learns that life in the village is markedly different from that in the city.

In the village culture, where girls’ freedom is restricted, Obayda’s family faces a predicament. They have no son, and since the father is depressed and incapacitated, there is no male to run errands and supposedly to bring the family luck. Obayda’s parents adopt an ancient Afghan tradition—bacha posh—dressing prepubescent girls as boys and giving them the responsibilities and freedom that boys in that culture enjoy.

Obayda has no choice. Her hair is cut and she’s dressed as a boy. She is now Obayd.

Initially Obayd is confused, afraid, and lonely. But when Obayd meets Rahim—another bacha posh—the two forge a solid friendship, despite the fact that Rahim is three years older than Obayd.

When Rahim’s future is jeopardized, Obayd tries to help. But there are complicated and terrifying cultural forces at play that are too much for a child to handle.

One Half from the East shows juvenile readers a culture in which boys are usually more highly valued than girls and portrays the psychological and emotional confusion created by the practice of bacha posh. It also shows that, no matter how far a culture as a whole strays from caring for all its children, there are still families in countries like Afghanistan who love their daughters as much as their sons. Ages 8 and up. (HarperCollins)

About the Author

Sonya VanderVeen Feddema is a freelance writer and a member of Covenant CRC in St. Catharines, Ontario.