It's difficult not to spend all day every day reading about what's going on in Afghanistan right now. I spent so much time reading and learning about the country's people and culture and history to write Ground Zero that it's doubly heartbreaking to me--and not altogether surprising, unfortunately--to see what's going on. My greatest fears about the collapse of the democratically-elected government were echoed in this email I received just this week from a 12-year-old boy:
The empathy in this short note brought me to tears. That a 12-year-old boy somewhere in the United States read my book and then saw what was happening on the news and thought about how it would affect young Afghan girls...wow. I can't think of a better reason for why I'm writing the kind of books I'm writing now. I hope that Ground Zero will help all young readers put the current events into context, and encourage them to see the victims of this crisis as real people, not headlines or statistics.
I don't know what's in store for the women and girls of Afghanistan, and I don't have any answers to the difficult questions being asked now about America's twenty year war in Afghanistan, and how it has ended. That's a big part of the message of Ground Zero, in fact: that sometimes we have to make impossible decisions where there are no good answers. Where the only way forward will be bad, no matter what we choose to do.
If you're looking for ways to help the people of Afghanistan, particularly women and children, I have some links below.
Ground Zero Virtual Tour Dates
To commemorate the anniversary of 9/11, I'll be doing a series of free, virtual, public events in early September where I will talk about Ground Zero for half an hour, then take questions from attendees. Everyone is welcome to join, whether you're logging in as a single account for a classroom, or individually at home. Each event is done in conjunction with an indie bookstore in a different part of the country, but you don't have to be local to the bookstore to attend. With multiple days and times available, I hope you will find an event that is right for you. If not, sign up for any event and the recording will be available to you anytime within a month of its initial broadcast.
To see a list of events and to get signed up ahead of time, click here.
Are you reading Refugee on your own or as a class? If so, you'll want to add Margarita Engle's Your Heart My Sky to your reading list. Set during el período especial en tiempos de paz--"the special period in times of peace" after the Soviet Union collapsed and Cuba starved--this beautiful novel in verse tells the story of Liana and Amado, two Cuban teenagers united by hope, hunger, and love. Highly recommended for readers looking to learn more about the world Isabel and her family fought so hard to escape from in Refugee.