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The oldest of five daughters

Cover of Amal Unbound
A review of Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Amal is the smartest student in her Pakistani village with the best grades, highest scores, and a desire to become a teacher. Her family is in crisis after the birth of a fifth daughter and Amal struggles to care for her younger sisters, complete homework, and help around the house while her mother recovers. Well aware of how she's treated differently because she's a girl, Amal wants another kind of life for herself. She misses school and her classmates and especially her best friend, Omar.

Exhausted and frustrated, Amal takes a walk to the market and purchases the very last persimmon in the bin as a special treat. An unfortunate encounter with a stranger who also wants the persimmon sets a devastating path in motion that rips Amal away from her family, her life, and her dreams to become a teacher. This middle grade book examines forced indentured servitude and domestic life and includes an afterward about the author's inspiration, Malala Yousafzai, and Malala's real-life advocacy of education for girls. 

A recently published follow-up features Amal's friend Omar. Read his story in Omar Rising, a closer look at the way students of varying economic backgrounds are treated differently at the prestigious Ghalib Academy where Omar is a scholarship student. The students organize and band together in protest with satisfying results.

Jul 25, 2022