Deborah Ellis shares her experiences of researching her latest book, set in Afghanistan, My Name is Parvana.
Late in the l990s, I spent time in the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. Millions of Afghans fled there from the Soviet occupation, the civil war and then the atrocities of the Taliban. The stories I heard there of sorrow and strength, of loss and kindness, formed the basis for my novel for young people called The Breadwinner. The Breadwinner follows a girl, Parvana, who disguises herself as a boy in order to feed her family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Some years went by. Afghanistan underwent many changes. I wondered what life would be like for Parvana in this new Afghanistan.
To research My Name Is Parvana, I spent time in Kabul, meeting with a wide range of women and children. I was able to record interviews with many children, and published them in a book called Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through A Never-Ending War.
My Name Is Parvana starts out with Parvana being picked up in a bombed-out school building by an American military patrol and being brought back to their base for questioning. It follows the dream of many girls and women there, a dream of freedom, education, and a life without violence.
My Name is Parvana is out now.
As with the other books, royalties are going to Canadian Women 4 Women in Afghanistan, for their on-going work in support of women and children in Afghanistan.
Deborah Ellis has been a political activist since the age of 17, advocating non-violence. After high school she went to Toronto and worked in the Peace Movement. Later she got involved in the Women’s Movement, focusing on women’s rights and economic justice. She continues to be involved in anti-war politics. She has spent a lot of time in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, talking to women and documenting their lives through 20 years of war. The stories she heard and the children she met were the inspiration for The Breadwinner, Parvana’s Journey, Mud City, and My Name is Parvana. The Breadwinner trilogy has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in twenty-five different languages. Deborah lives in Ontario, Canada.