Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy describes what life has been like for many females in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. Zulaikha is a young Afghani girl who was born with a cleft palate – a facial deformity. Her mouth and teeth are not shaped correctly and she hates not feeling and looking normal. Some of the boys in her village tease her and call her donkey face.
Zulaikha does not go to school. As a matter of fact, none of the females do. Their jobs are cooking, cleaning, going to the market, and taking care of younger brother and sisters. Zulaikha follows the grueling orders of her stepmother but wants something more for herself.
While American soldiers are stationed nearby, one of them notices Zulaikha. This soldier, with the help of his commanding officer, finds a doctor to help fix Zulaikha’s face. She knows this surgery will change her life – she could be pretty like her older sister and then find a husband some day.
Unfortunately Zulaikha faces several obstacles in becoming pretty, with her family, and figuring out what would make her life happier. Words in the Dust was written by a soldier, Trent Reedy, who spent time in Afghanistan while in the military. His story is based on real people he met and his experience there. This book inspired me to want to learn more about Afghanistan because of how different it is from the life we know in America.