Arash, Jawad , Reedy, Trent

Enduring Freedom

(2) YA Baheer, an Afghan teen, faces a hardscrabble life under the Taliban, while post-9/11 American high-school senior Joe's college plans are put on pause as he begins his military tour. Joe's desire for retribution wanes when he is assigned a reconstruction mission instead of fighting on the front lines. As the boys' paths cross, mistrust clouds their judgment, but an unlikely friendship emerges through their shared experiences of war's gruesome realities. They realize their interdependence: Baheer hopes to improve his English and find work, while Joe seeks to write about the "unbiased truth" of war. Writing in alternating points of view, the co-authors draw on their real-life friendship (further explored in appended authors' notes) to tell a touching story about differences and finding common ground. Though regional geopolitics are rendered in easy binaries that gloss over America's role in the rise of the Taliban, the story effectively focuses on those most affected by violent conflict and the characters' shift in perspective from prejudice to openness. Joe's reading of war literature leads him to realize the common hardships people face in a war zone, while Baheer's engagement with Persian classics, Afghan poetry, and Quranic verses help him understand the humanity of all people. Through their individual reflections, they come to understand that education is the key to rebuilding a society, and they work together toward this goal.


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