Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son by Homeira Qaderi (translated by Zamn Stanizai)
“But Baba-jan, these are only books, not enemies.”
In our society, despite rallying cries of fake news, simplified and romanticized versions of history lessons, bland leveled or decodable books, and a smattering of attempts to ban books, it’s hard to imagine any society at any time that readers and writers read and wrote in fear for their lives but with utter determination. Yet, it was only a few generations ago that our country had anti-literacy laws affecting slaves, freedmen, and people of color. And today, there are still too many repressive nations and too many populations with low literacy rates.
Homeira, coming of age surrounded by the Taliban, and her family were the most upset about the prohibition against reading. Her father wrapped their books in plastic and buried them. Every May, he would dig them up and spread them out in the sunlight to dry for a day before reburying them.
On the day that Homeira read to her family the first story she wrote, her father brought the books out and hid them in the cellar so that Homeira could read them by kerosene at night.
Despite the great danger, her father encouraged Homeira, “By reading more novels, Homeira, you will become more creative. You will know more people and you will experience many different lives.”
We mustn’t forget the power of reading, writing, media, and knowledge. And that the power embedded in relationships, not only between societies and its people but also between adults and children, has a significant impact on our access to literacies.