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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

“If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

As fifth graders’ worldview begins to expand, they start to understand that the things that they might take for granted are treasures to children in other parts of the world. Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed is a beautiful story that demonstrates how our perspectives are shaped by the resources and values of our home communities.

Amal is a 12-year-old girl who loves school, particularly reading. In her home village in Pakistan, it is not a given that all girls go to school. Amal’s hope of becoming a teacher when she grows up grows farther out of reach when she gets in trouble at the local market. In order to pay the debt of her misdemeanor, Amal’s family trades in her freedom. She is sold into indentured servitude and must work for Jawad Sahib, a corrupt landlord who controls much of life in the village.

Uncertain if she will ever regain her freedom, become reunited with her family, and resume her education, Amal begins to lose hope. Eventually, however,  she finds her voice and uses her wits to resume control of her fate. 

Teachers feel that Amal Unbound is a coming-of-age story that offers middle grade students a unique perspective. It enables readers to question the impact of cultural norms and values on the shaping of identity. Amal Unbound grapples with important issues such as race, gender, equality, children’s rights, and change agency. It shows that obstacles can be overcome when our will is strong enough and our oppressors are actively resisted.

One fifth grade student said, “This book takes you on an emotional roller coaster and it teaches you about some real world problems I hope that everyone gets the chance to read this book.”

Another fifth grader reported, “I loved Amal Unbound, I thought that it gave us all another perspective on what happens in the world today. Before I read that book, I had no idea that this (indentured servitude) still happened. I think that your students would enjoy the book just as much as I did..” 

Inspired by the story of Malala Yousefszai and as one of the founding members of the We Need Diverse Books Campaign, Aisha Saeed shares this stirring story about life as a Pakistani woman, while sowing seeds of hope of a better tomorrow for all. Amal Unbound is a must-read for all of our older readers and our teachers!

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