I have always felt a special connection to Canadian author Deborah Ellis. In grade five my art teacher, whose name also happened to be Deborah Ellis, read us passages from one of her novels. Ms. Ellis and I also share the same birthday. What is truly remarkable about Deborah Ellis, however, is her phenomenal ability to draw us closer to people across the globe through her adventurous yet compassionate work.
Ellis’s non-fiction book Kids of Kabul deals with the complex subject of Afghanistan. A concise book, scarcely over one hundred pages long, it is an enlightening and informative read for both children and adults. Deborah Ellis recounts the lives of twenty-seven children that she met on a recent visit to Kabul. The children vary from runaway child brides to children living in prison to young scholars sent abroad. The stories are skilfully selected to show both the strength and vulnerability of these resilient children. Ellis’s writing style is both objective and compassionate, portraying the children’s struggles and successes without glossing over the truth with unrealistic optimism.
The book is written with a diverse demographic in mind. Helpful and relevant information is provided for both adults and children. Prefacing each tale is relevant historical and situational information to set the story in its context. At the end of the book there is also a brief history of Afghanistan, a list of relevant organizations, websites, and books for further reference and research, and a glossary defining both advanced words for school-age children and foreign words used throughout the book.
It is clear from Ellis’s writing that each child has his or her own story, and that there is no one solution to the problems of the children living in Kabul. The children’s emotions regarding their situations range from anger and frustration to determination and hope. Fortunately, positive changes are happening both within and outside Afghanistan, such as the construction of a Women’s Garden, a Youth Exchange and Study Program, and homes and schools for children. However, much still needs to be done in order to offer these children more safety and opportunity.
Although I have a unique personal connection with Ms. Ellis, her writing also brings me closer to the world at large. Through reading this intimate and striking collection of stories, one comes to feel that these children are not so different from those closer to home. They remind us of ourselves as children and of our own siblings, cousins, nephews, nieces, children, and grandchildren. It can be easy to dismiss the issues of those far across the globe as irrelevant to our own lives. However, after reading Kids of Kabul, one realizes that we are all human in the very same way and that we all deserve the same opportunities for a positive future. All royalties from the sales of Kids of Kabul will go to the organization Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, making even the act of purchasing and reading this book a positive step toward the future of Afghanistan.