Afghan Voices: Books for Children and Young Adults

Fly, Girl, Fly!

The following books bring a wide range of Afghan stories and voices to life. While they present a variety of themes and settings, they capture the resilience, spirit, and warmth of the Afghan people.

These books can be used to support school and community discussions of current events as they develop in Afghanistan.

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Two girls in a refugee camp
Illustrated by: Doug Chayka
Age Level: 6-9

Lina has not worn shoes for two years. On the day that new clothes are delivered to her refugee camp, she is excited to find a beautiful yellow sandal with a blue flower in the middle. She wonders where the other sandal might be — until she sees it on another girl. Evocative paintings capture the spirit of friendship that develops between these two survivors, as well as the dramatic setting of their story. Based on the lives of Afghan refugees living in the Peshawar Refugee Camp.

Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

Young Afghan girl with book
Age Level: 6-9

Young Nasreen has not spoken a word to anyone since her parents disappeared. In despair, her grandmother risks everything to enroll Nasreen in a secret school for girls. Will a devoted teacher, a new friend, and the worlds she discovers in books be enough to draw Nasreen out of her shell of sadness? Based on a true story from Afghanistan.

One Half from the East

Two young people running
Age Level: Middle Grade

Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune, and her aunt has an idea to bring the family luck — dress Obayda, the youngest of four sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh. Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. Their transformation won’t last forever, though — unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Saving Kabul Corner (Kabul Chronicles)

Illustration of a market
Age Level: Middle Grade

Twelve-year-old Ariana couldn’t be more different from her cousin Laila, who just arrived from Afghanistan with her family. Laila is a proper, ladylike Afghan girl, one who can cook, sew, sing, and who is well versed in Pukhtun culture and manners. Laila not only invades Ariana’s bedroom in their cramped Fremont townhouse, but she also becomes close with Mariam Nurzai, Ariana’s best friend. Then a rival Afghan grocery store opens near Ariana’s family store, reigniting a decades-old feud tracing back to Afghanistan.

Shooting Kabul (Kabul Chronicles)

Kabul at night
Age Level: Middle Grade

As Fadi's family is preparing to flee to the U.S., Fadi's little sister is lost. The family leaves her behind, but adjusting to life in the United States isn't easy and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war-torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. Based in part on the Ms. Senzai's husband's own experience fleeing his home in Soviet controlled Afghanistan in the 1970s.

The Library Bus

Afghan girl near a bus
Illustrated by: Gabrielle Grimard
Age Level: 6-9

It is still dark in Kabul, Afghanistan when the library bus rumbles out of the city. There are no bus seats ― instead there are chairs and tables and shelves of books. And there are no passengers ― instead there is Pari, who is nervously starting her first day as Mama's library helper. Author Bahram Rahman grew up in Afghanistan during years of civil war and the Taliban regime. He wrote this story to tell new generations about the struggles of women who, like his own sister, were forbidden to learn.

The Sky at Our Feet

Reflection of children running in a puddle
Age Level: Middle Grade

Jason has just learned that his Afghan mother has been living illegally in the United States since his father was killed in Afghanistan. Although Jason was born in the US, it’s hard to feel American now when he’s terrified that his mother will be discovered — and that they will be separated.

When he sees his mother being escorted from her workplace by two officers, Jason feels completely alone. He boards a train with the hope of finding his aunt in New York City, but as soon as he arrives in Penn Station, the bustling city makes him wonder if he’s overestimated what he can do.