Monday, October 22, 2012

The Sky of Afghanistan

The Sky of Afghanistan, a picture book by Ana A. de Eulate, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, is about the dreams of "a little Afghan girl."

Check out the review on the website BookDragon. All the preceeds of this book are being donated by the author and illustrator to the Cometa Foundation, a Spain-based organization dedicated to empowering women.

I discovered this book soon after hearing Azar Nafisi, the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, speak at Colgate University. Nafisi was once a little girl in Iran, not Afghanistan, but she knows about the educational repression of women first hand. Though she had the rare opportunity to study literature abroad, when she returned to Iran to teach, she had to do so under the constant threat of violence.  Nafisi talked about her passion for  stories, both true and fiction, because they are the way towards the truth about those in other cultures.

What exactly is the nature of the dream of the little Afghan girl in The Sky of Afghanistan?  Ana A. de Eulate puts it this way:

. . . a wonderful dream in which we all hold hands,/ and we are all given a new opportunity/ to leave our footprints for all eternity.

The desire of a person to connect with others and to leave something better behind, crosses all borders. It's universal. But even as repressive governments and extreme religion make the dreams of girls impossible, so does the presence of war. What our little Afghan girl tells us she needs is:

a place where harmony reigns,/ A place of togetherness . . . / A place--please forgive me if my eyes fill with /tears--that leads us towards PEACE.

Wimmer's artwork is beautiful and evocative. There is a sweetness and gentleness. The sky, clouds, birds, and kites daring to fly upward over Afghanistan, like dreams. The little Afghan girl's toys are all different colorful sorts of creatures who hold hands.

This book is an example of why books for children are important. Because they speak to the dreams of children, celebrate dreams, and encourage children to hope.

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