Author: Rukhsana Khan
date: 2009; Groundwork Books
main character: Jameela
The title is so different. Is it spelled wrong? What does it mean? Does someone want more?
The title is actually the first clue how deeply we will be taken into another culture. We’re transported to Afganistan and as I was reading opening scenes with Jameela’s mother dying and Jameela moving into the caretaking role her mother once held, I was wondering exactly when this story was taking place. It was beginning to feel like one of those timeless foreign stories where everyone is poor, technology is non-existent and you envision everything in black, white and gray.
Her father seemed like an outsider because he doesn’t speak much and the women of the village don’t like him. I don’t think we’re ever told exactly what he looks like, what he thinks or what motivates him. His character is never developed in this story, but it doesn’t need to be! In not developing him, Khan does an amazing job of creating the most worthless and loathsome of male parents (I cannot call him a father.) He decides to move to the city where he may be able to find the type of life he is seeking. In this move to Kabul, we realize the story is set in modern day Afghanistan that has been invaded by US military forces and we see some of the effects of what they have brought to the country.
Living closely with the women of her village, Jameela learns to value a traditionally Islamic lifestyle. Khan uses Arabic and Afgan terms as they would exist in Jameela’s world. There was a point where Jameela was referring to something from the perspective of her faith. In western writings, the same thing would have been described from a Christian perspective and it was eye opening in this moment of difference, to really see a commonality. However, upon reading that, I also realized that most Americans will have a very hard to reading this book. Adolescents curious about the world around them would enjoy the authenticity of this story.
Khan used ill-defined characters to show us the best and worst of Afghan society with the worst being those who would abuse and abandon children and the best being those would reach out to strangers, offering their home, food or whatever they had to give. We all want more, some of us think we can get it by using people and acquiring things while others think we can obtain more by giving up things to help others.
Wherever Jameela’s father took her, wherever she lived, Jameela immediately assumed the role of a servant. She would cook, clean and serve tea yes, because she was a woman, but also because of her class. Because of where she came from, she was locked into the role of a servant. As a servant, Jameela couldn’t even read. One of the last places Jameela went was an orphanage and while here, Jameela was given the opportunity to learn. Both her age and her strong determination to learn allowed her to quickly excel in class and she soon began to teach other younger students. She developed a relationship with her teacher because of their interest in learning and in their faith. Jameela was able to read books that helped deepen her understanding in what she thought she believed all her life. Once she could read the Koran and related texts, she began to understand her faith more fully. Jameela’s life changed in many ways and many possibilities began to open up to her.
Not only does Wanting Mor take us to another world, but it introduces us to a meek little girl who blossoms into a young lady with endless capabilities.
Based on a true story about a girl who ended up in one of the orphanages Rukhsana sponsors in Afghanistan through the royalties of her book
book source:borrowed from my school library
9 thoughts on “review: Wanting Mor”
Your review and Zetta’s really make me want to read this book!
I would love to learn more about Islamic culture since it’s so important for people to read about different cultures than their own. I’m curious about the title, is it just about wanting more or does mor tie into Jameela’s faith? I will have to read to find out!
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Edi I love this review. It makes me want to read Wanting Mor again.
What I really enjoyed about Wanting Mor, is the author didn’t try to do anything special she just told the story straight. I loved that and I wish more authors did it.
If I remember correctly Mor is Mom.
This is one that I really want to read. I love to travel without leaving home.
This is a wonderful book and I’m so glad you chose it for the Reading the World Challenge. And one of the main episodes in the plot, that might seem incredible, where she is abandoned by her “male parent”, is the one bit that is taken from fact… so yes, I so agree with your assessment of his character!
Great review, Edi! I think this book complicates Western notions of Afghan women needed to be “saved” from the Taliban and male domination. The author mostly portrays women in a negative light, but affirms Jameela’s right to choose the path she thinks is best. I couldn’t get a sense of her age–13?
Yes, ‘mor’ means ‘mom.
Zetta, I don’ t think she is any older than 13, if that old, because marriage was not yet an issue for her.
I got the feeling that she was presenting the good and bad, presenting very human characters.
Mor means mom, got it. Thanks! I do want to read this book and I think when I do, I’ll count it as part of my Global Reading Challenge. Sometimes the best stories are the ones that are told straight, others work when they play with your mind 🙂
[…] also ticked off a couple of continents with one of my favorite reads of 2009, Rukhsana Khan’s Wanting Mor; and a new one to me that has gone onto my to-be-read list: The Other Hand by Chris Cleave – […]
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