Jameela has a lot of obstacles as the book opens: poverty, her mother, Mor, has just died, a cleft lip, and an angry father that returns to drugs and alcohol. As the book progresses however, things don’t get better in fact they get worse. In war-torn Afghanistan Jameela and her father move from their small village to the bustling city of Kabul, recently freed from Taliban control. With only her faith in Allah and her memory of Mor, Jameela endures being a virtual slave in one home, before being whisked away for her father’s inappropriate actions with the lady of the house. Desperate for a place to live, Jameela’s father marries a widow for her money and Jameela becomes a slave to her new stepmother. When her stepbrother Masood, tries to teach her how to read and write her name, her stepmother convinces Jameela’s father to take her to the busy market place and leave her. Alone, lost, and with no where to go a kind butcher tries to help her, but ultimately she ends up in an orphanage. Prospects look up for Jameela as she finally is allowed an education, friends, and security, however, issues with her father and stepmother must be resolved and ultimately this serves to be the biggest test for Jameela.
WHY I LIKE IT:
The story in a nutshell, is heartbreaking, yet Khan never seems to diminish the hope felt for Jameela and the belief that she will find a way to have a full life. Based on a true story, it is hard to put the book down and the 183 pages fly by quickly. Jameela is very devout in her prayers, her modesty and her imaan, illuminating a story where so much sadness prevails. Her faith in Allah swt brings her peace and strength and Khan successfully passes that message on to the reader. Jameela not only has to navigate her family issues, but also the challenge of making friends, dealing with her appearance, taking control of matters regarding her education, and so much more than most student’s coming of age have to endure. I think Jameela’s strengths and faults will inspire and serve as lessons to the readers, most likely girls who have it much, much easier. And who after reading the book, inshaAllah, will appreciate how much harder their lives could be.
This is the second book I’ve read and blogged about by Rukhsana Khan, the first was a children’s fiction book My Big Red Lollipop. The two books are both well written and I enjoy her voice as an author, this book however, Wanting Mor, while only an AR Level 3.7, I would reserve for a more mature audience. The reading is easy and fluid, the story is powerful and well told and I think would be fine in a 7th or 8th grade and up environment. I would be nervous to recommend this book blindly to a young adult reader without context, direction, and some background. The incident after a party, with alcohol, where Jameela’s father enters a married woman’s room, implies more than I would want a 3rd or 4th grader inquiring about. Details aren’t given, but it causes a huge turning point in the story and is thus critical. At one point a character is groped in the street and Jameela laughs, highly inappropriate that it happens and equally inappropriate that Jameela laughs at her friend.
Another point I would want to discuss with anyone reading the book before hand is the concept that, If you can’t be beautiful, you should at least be good.” Mor tells it to Jameela, presumably because of her birth defect, but I think that a young girl reading the book shouldn’t take it at face value, I would want to explain the culture, the environment, and talk about such a statement on many levels.
Implied sexual violence, drug and alcohol use
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
Given the right group of older students, this book would make a decent book club selections with plenty to discuss and plenty of emotion.
The author’s website page: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/books/wantingmor.html
Teacher’s guide: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/teacherguides/Wanting%20Mor%20Teacher’s%20Guide.PDF
Wanting Mor Presentation: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/teacherguides/Wanting%20Mor%20Presentation%20Guide.PDF