The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

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Recommended by Anjeum Gul (@Missagul)

Form and genre: Novel but also film adaptation.
Themes: courage, family, resilience of women, oppression of women, education.

Length: 176 pages


Parvana, a young Afghan girl, lives under Taliban rule. Living conditions are dismal as bombs have destroyed buildings and homes. After her crippled father is wrongfully arrested she cuts off her hair and begins to dress as a boy in order to support her family because women were forbidden to go outside without a man.

Parvana is the only one from her mother and sisters that can pass as a boy and so goes outside wearing her dead brother’s clothes. Parvana begins to read letters for money and so earns enough to buy tea and rice. Parvana finds a girl she knew from school who is also dressing up as a boy to make money for her family and so they become good friends.

When her father returns from prison, he is weak and in rough shape, Mrs Weera (Parvana’s mother) nurses him back to health and travels to Pakistan with Parvana in hope of finding a widow’s family who has become well acquainted with Mrs Weera during the novel. Whilst Parvana leaves Afghanistan she begins to feel a sense of hope.

Age recommendation and challenging content: Taliban violence.
We have been studying this text with Year 7.

Notable reasons for recommending this book: The themes of family and resilience are great values to instil into the young impressionable minds. Teaching afghan culture is incredibly valuable for our diverse classrooms and society. We return to Afghanistan in year 12 teaching Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.