One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi. HarperCollins, 2016
After Obayda’s family moves from Kabul to the village where her father grew up, the 10-year-old’s aunt suggests she become a bacha posh—a girl who passes as a boy—to give her family the advantage of a son. Obayda’s parents reluctantly agree. Obayda, now Obayd, likes being a girl, and doesn’t know how to move through the world with a boy’s swagger and certainty. Befriended by Rashid, an older bacha posh, Obayd soon is relishing the freedoms and privilege her older sisters do not enjoy, even in their progressive family. Obayd does things as a boy she never would have considered before, discovering a different kind of action and agency as she tries to help her father recover from injuries he suffered in a Kabul explosion. But there is nothing she can do to help Rashid(a) when her friend’s time as a bacha posh abruptly ends when she’s married off to the village war lord. A fascinating, swiftly paced, story firmly grounded in Obayd(a)’s perspective and experience makes clear gender has nothing to do with her physical or intellectual ability, only with how those abilities are perceived in a society where males are privileged. The book is not about gender identity (although Rashid references women she knows of who remained bacha posh or continued to pose as men their entire lives) but about how power is proscribed based on gender. These are big ideas, yet Obayda’s voice feels childlike and true. An author’s note provides additional information about bacha posh and context for the story. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:
- Why does Obayda/Obayd feel it iss so much better to be a boy? How do other family members feel?
- Why would/does the practice of bacha posh exist?
- How does the experience of being a bacha posh empower Obayda and how does she use these lessons to empower others?