For as long as thirteen-year-old Azad can remember, the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he lives in the predominantly Kurdish town of Sardasht, has been at war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and his country has been a harsh society full of spies, secrets, and "disappearances." Still, most of the time Azad manages to live a normal life, hanging out at the bakery next door, going to school with his friend Hiwa, playing sports, and taking care of his parrot. Then Azad learns that his town may soon become a target for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Now more than ever, Azad feels torn between his divorced parents and his conflicting desires to remain in his home or escape. His father is somehow connected to the police and is rooted in the town. His mother may be part of the insurgency, yet is ready to flee. How can Azad make the choice?
The story of how one boy's world was turned upside down in 1987 Iran is a timely and memorable introduction to the conflicts in the Middle East.
A solid entry in multicultural literature, Mead (Year of No Rain) once again profiles a country in conflict. Thirteen-year-old Azad lives with his father in the Kurdish town of Sardasht in 1987. He sees his mother whenever he can, but Azad never understood why his parents divorced when he was seven. Azad observes the growing hostility against Kurds in both his country of Iran and in Iraq, where Saddam Hussein has vowed to get rid of the Kurds for good. His neighbor hints that Azad's father is part of SAVAMA-Iran's dreaded secret police. Not until Azad is helping his mother prepare for his cousin Mohammad's wedding does he learn the real reason for his parents' divorce: his mother works to protect the human rights of women and children. His life changes dramatically when a poisonous gas bomb is dropped over Azad's village. Although Azad and his friend escape the worst of the gas, 300 people die in the attack, and Azad grows up quickly after the incident. When it becomes clear they are no longer safe, Azad and his mother undergo a perilous journey to Turkey, eventually making their way to the United States. Mead doesn't overwhelm the story with too many details about the conflict or daily life in Iran, yet young readers will be drawn into Azad's story and come away with an understanding of his fears. Ages 10-up.