Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Aisha Saeed is a Pakistani-American writer, teacher and attorney. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC and the BBC, and, as one of the founding members of the much talked about 'We Need Diverse Books' campaign, she is helping change the conversation about diverse books. Aisha lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and sons.
‘Saeed infuses this true-to-life story of unjust power dynamics in a poor Pakistani village with a palpable sense of dread regarding the fate of the inquisitive, industrious, poetry-loving titular character…Amal’s experience navigating an unfamiliar social hierarchy in the landlord’s lavish estate exposes her to pervasive gender inequities and unfair labour practices…Saeed’s eloquent, suspenseful, eye-opening tale offers a window into the contemporary practice of indentured servitude and makes a compelling case for the power of girls’ education to transform systemic injustice.’ Publishers Weekly, starred review
‘A Pakistani girl’s dreams of an education dissolve when she is forced into indentured servitude…Amal narrates, her passion for learning, love for her family, and despair at her circumstance evoked with sympathy and clarity, as is the setting. Inspired by Malala Yousafzai and countless unknown girls like her, Saeed’s timely and stirring middle-grade debut is a celebration of resistance and justice.’ Kirkus Reviews, starred review
‘Readers will find that a little perseverance and a heart filled with hope can eventually surmount a harsh reality. Saeed fills her prose with lush descriptions of Pakistani life, while still managing to connect with readers whose surroundings and experience will be starkly different. Hand to any reader who struggles with definitive gender roles, norms, and expectations held in place by societal structures.’ Booklist
‘Raw, honest, funny, charming and hopeful. A reminder of how people with privilege should never underestimate the courage and strength of young people fighting for their rights. Girls and boys everywhere can learn so much from a young girl like Amal.’ Randa Abdel-Fattah
‘A wonderfully uplifting tale of courage and the fight for justice. Saeed has created a compelling story that shines a light on a part of our world that has been ignored for far too long.’ Zana Fraillon
‘A beautiful and moving story about indentured servitude, economic class, family, resistance and ultimately—freedom. Amal’s story and the many people we meet in it are so thoughtfully and deeply rendered, I remain haunted by their struggles and changed by their journeys.’ Jacqueline Woodson
‘This heroic story about a girl’s struggle to become educated against overwhelming odds will open readers’ eyes and hearts. A gorgeous and compelling read.’ Laurie Halse Anderson
‘A beautifully written and extraordinary narrative of one young girl and her determination to invoke change. Essential reading.’ Diva Booknerd
‘Full of character and interest and written with a lovely balanced clarity, it celebrates the power of the gutsy individual.’ Magpies Magazine
Saeed (Written in the Stars) infuses this true-to-life story of unjust power dynamics in a poor Pakistani village with a palpable sense of dread regarding the fate of the inquisitive, industrious, poetry-loving titular character. Twelve-year-old Amal is troubled by her parents' obvious distress that her newborn sibling is yet another girl, and she is vexed that her responsibilities as eldest daughter require her to run the household while her mother is bedridden. Amal unleashes her frustration on the wrong person when she talks back to Jawad Sahib, the wealthy landowner, who demands she work off her debt for the insult. Amal's experience navigating an unfamiliar social hierarchy in the landlord's lavish estate exposes her to pervasive gender inequities and unfair labor practices, like being charged for room and board but receiving no pay. While her growing indebtedness makes it unlikely she will ever leave, Amal's ability to read grants her a dangerous opportunity to expose the landlord's extensive corruption, if she dares. Saeed's eloquent, suspenseful, eye-opening tale offers a window into the contemporary practice of indentured servitude and makes a compelling case for the power of girls' education to transform systemic injustice. Ages 10 up.