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Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher…

Under the Persimmon Tree

by Suzanne Fisher Staples

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This books is about a young girl who loses her family to the Taliban. The beginning of the book describes a life that is hard as it was with her family, then she loses them. I love the strength of the main character, Najmah. Her name meant "star" in her country and her father used to tell her the stars would always guide her. I think this character is someone that students would be extremely proud of. I liked this book because it describes an extremely sad situation that has happened to real life people through a children's chapter book. I think this book has excellent content and word choice because it is young yet mature. I am not sure that all children would be able to get through the book without getting emotional, so the teacher would have to be mindful of student's backgrounds. It might be a story that would teacher students not only about what others are going through around the world, but also to be grateful for the peace they live in each day. ( )
  sparra2 | Nov 10, 2016 |
During the Afghan war and fall of the Taliban rule the lives of a shepherd girl intertwine with that of an American woman. Najmah has lived a simple life with her family, helping tend the animals and garden. Then her father and brother are forcefully conscripted into the war by the Taliban. Later, bombing destroys Namjah's home, killing her mother and baby brother. She escapes, disguised as a boy, with the friends of a neighbor. Elaine, now Nusrat, is married to an Afghan doctor. She relocated with him to his country so he could help out at a hospital during the war. She has not heard from him for many months. In the meantime, she teaches war refugee children at her home and visits her in-laws. Eventually Najmah is brought to Nusrat's little school. Nusrat learns that Najmah is really a girl, without her family and alone among the dangers of the war and the Taliban. She takes in Najmah to live with her until they can figure out what to do.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Suzanne Fisher Staples is a local author, by which I mean she lives within 25 or 30 miles of me, by very familiar back roads. She plans an annual symposium called The Gathering at Keystone College in LaPlume, PA. She writes for "young readers", but as a former reporter based in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, she covered a lot of difficult territory and now uses her knowledge of the region and its varied cultures to create engaging and informative fiction that appeals to adults as well. In Under the Persimmon Tree she gives us two main characters, Najmah, a twelve year old Afghani girl orphaned by war in post-9/11 Afghanistan, who travels, sometimes alone and disguised as a boy, to a refugee camp across the border in Peshawar, Pakistan; and Nusrat, an American woman who converted to Islam and traveled to her husband's homeland of Pakistan with him on a humanitarian mission. Nusrat teaches refugee children in the garden of her home outside Peshawar, while she waits for word from her husband, a doctor who has gone into the war zones to provide medical assistance in field clinics. Naturally, we anticipate an intersection of the lives of these two characters, whose stories are written in alternating chapters. Najmah's journey is told to us in her voice, in first person, in the present tense. Nusrat's story comes to us from her point of view, but in the third person, also in the present tense. I suppose the author felt the difference would make it easier for young readers to make the shift from chapter to chapter, but I didn't care for that aspect of the book. I'm not a fan of present tense, either. But there is excellence in this story; there is insight into Muslim daily life; into the impact of generations of war on people whose lives are mostly about survival, no matter who is power; and about the simple acts of kindness and generosity that can bring about healing and growth. The ending feels inevitable, but not totally predictable. I enjoyed it, even though there were spots where the "informative" part was a little too obvious.
Review written in November 2015 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Nov 28, 2015 |
Dual stories of a young Afghani refugee (from the Taliban) girl and the American wife of an Afghani doctor, set in Peshawar, Pakistan. Interesting, especially the perspective of the American who is a convert to Islam.
Personal copy. ( )
  seeword | Sep 4, 2015 |
The Afghan war of 2001 was a vivid reminder of the brutality, anger and hatred the division of a country can produce. Under the Persimmon Tree brings this experience to life through the perspective of Najmah, an Afghan girl and Elaine an American woman waiting in Pakistan.

Najmah, lives with her father, mother and older brother in a remote village. They have little in worldly possessions, but there is a deep bond between them. When the fearful, abusive and controlling Taliban appear food is always seized with no thought for the remaining villiagers. This time is even worse for Najmah’s family. Her father and older brother are taken captive. Only Najmah and her mother remain, left to fend for themselves.

After the bombs come Najmah is left hungry, alone and numb, but lucky to be alive. She is helped by other villagers. They change her appearance and she travels with them to a refugee camp many perilous miles away.

Elaine, her Islamic name Nusrat, is married to a fine doctor. They have come to the country so he can help his people. He is far away in dangerous territory treating those in desperate need. Nusrat was a teacher in the United States and continues to fine ways to teach some of the refugee children from the compound. With no word from her husband, Nusrat longs to know of his welfare.

In time, providence brings Najmah and Nusrat together. There friendship grows and a bond of trust is developed. But what does the future hold in this vastly devastated and war torn country?

The overall writing was very descriptive, dramatic and direct. However, to get the clearest picture, familiarize yourself with the glossary.

I found Under the Persimmon Tree to be an excellent cultural read. It will open your eyes to a way of life that must be experienced to understand. ( )
  TheReadersCove | Sep 29, 2012 |
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The day begins like every day in the Kunduz Hills, following the rhythms of the sun and moon.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374380252, Hardcover)

Intertwined portraits of courage and hope in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Najmah, a young Afghan girl whose name means “star,” suddenly finds herself alone when her father and older brother are conscripted by the Taliban and her mother and newborn brother are killed in an air raid. An American woman, Elaine, whose Islamic name is Nusrat, is also on her own. She waits out the war in Peshawar, Pakistan, teaching refugee children under the persimmon tree in her garden while her Afghan doctor husband runs a clinic in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Najmah’s father had always assured her that the stars would take care of her, just as Nusrat’s husband had promised that they would tell Nusrat where he was and that he was safe. As the two look to the skies for answers, their fates entwine. Najmah, seeking refuge and hoping to find her father and brother, begins the perilous journey through the mountains to cross the border into Pakistan. And Nusrat’s persimmon-tree school awaits Najmah’s arrival. Together, they both seek their way home.

Known for her award-winning fiction set in South Asia, Suzanne Fisher Staples revisits that part of the world in this beautifully written, heartrending novel.


Under the Persimmon Tree is a 2006 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:07 -0400)

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During the 2001 Afghan War, the lives of Najmal, a young refugee from Kunduz, Afghanistan, and Nusrat, an American-Muslim teacher who is awaiting her huband's return from Mazar-i-Sharif, intersect at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.

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