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From Afghanistan to America, family matters most in this companion to Shooting Kabul, which Kirkus Reviews called “an ambitious story with much to offer.”

A rough and tumble tomboy, twelve-year-old Ariana couldn’t be more different from her cousin Laila, who just arrived from Afghanistan with her family. Laila is a proper, ladylike Afghan girl, one who can cook, sew, sing, and who is well versed in Pukhtun culture and manners. Arianna hates her. Laila not only invades Ariana’s bedroom in their cramped Fremont townhouse, but she also becomes close with Mariam Nurzai, Ariana’s best friend.

Then a rival Afghan grocery store opens near Ariana’s family store, reigniting a decades-old feud tracing back to Afghanistan. The cousins, Mariam, and their newfound frenemie, Waleed Ghilzai, must ban together to help the families find a lasting peace before it destroys both businesses and everything their parents have worked for.

Photograph © Sylvia Fife

N. H. Senzai is the author of the acclaimed Shooting Kabul, which was on numerous state award lists and an NPR Backseat Book Club Pick. Its companion, Saving Kabul Corner, was nominated for an Edgar Award. While her first two books are based in part on husband’s experience fleeing Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in the 1970s, her third, Ticket to India is based on her own family’s history. She is also the author of Escape from Aleppo. Ms. Senzai lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her online at NHSenzai.com.

SAVING KABUL CORNER
Author: N.H. Senzai

Review Issue Date: December 15, 2013
Online Publish Date: December 1, 2013
Publisher:Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster
Pages: 288
Price ( Hardcover ): $16.99
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-4424-8494-8
Category: Fiction

The arrival of a rival Afghani food market at the same California shopping plaza as the Shinwari family’s already established store brings with it the threat of an awakened family feud.

Eleven-year-old Ariana Shinwari feels klutzy and inadequate next to her almost-12-year-old perfect cousin, Laila, who has moved in with Ariana’s family after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan, leaving her father, a translator for the American Army, behind. And now it looks like Ariana’s best friend, Mariam, who also fled Afghanistan with her family, has all of her classes with Laila. But when strange things start to happen at both Kabul Corner and the upstart Pamir Market, schoolgirl conflicts give way to collaboration among Ariana, Laila, Mariam and Wali, the son of the new store’s owner. Senzai successfully weaves the dynamics of Afghan culture, history and political wranglings into a classically American mystery story, unraveling who and what are really at the heart of the conflict between the two Afghani grocery stores. Readers will appreciate that young people solve all of the questions at hand and ultimately bring the two families together.

An engaging mystery—that it’s about Afghani families struggling and surviving in America is a plus. (Fiction. 8-12)

– Kirkus Reviews

In a companion to 2010’s Shooting Kabul that stands solidly on its own, Senzai explores the lives of Afghan immigrants in California. Eleven-year-old Ariana’s family runs Kabul Corner, an Afghan grocery store in Freemont; the arrival of another Afghan grocery to their strip mall threatens their livelihood. Believably chaotic family dynamics heighten the tension in a crowded home filled with cousins and grandparents. Ariana is strong-willed and loyal, and her longings for a new home and a room of her own, along with her jealousy of her cousin Laila (newly arrived from Afghanistan), are relatable. As the rivalry between the stores escalates (with dangerous consequences), Ariana and her friends involve a classmate from the other store’s family to investigate the mystery. Readers who wondered what happened to Mariam, who was separated from her family in Afghanistan in Shooting Kabul, will be gratified to learn the answer in this empowering mystery. Senzai skillfully contextualizes the details of Afghan American life and the violence in Afghanistan that hangs over everyone. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (Feb.)

– Publishers Weekly

Senzai, N. H. Saving Kabul Corner. Wiseman/Simon, 2014 [288p] ISBN 978-1-4424-8494-8 $16.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-6 At twelve, Ariana can’t cook traditional Afghan meals, she moves more like a galloping horse than a dignified lady, and she inevitably makes a mess when stocking the pistachio bins at her family’s grocery store, the titular Kabul Corner. Unfortunately, her cousin Laila flips pancakes like a pro, veritably glides when she walks, and never spills anything. Worst of all, Ariana must share everything with Laila, who has recently arrived from Afghanistan: her cramped California bedroom, her sixth-grade class, and even her best friend. When a series of accidents rocks Kabul Corner and a neighboring store, Ariana suspects that someone is trying to scare away the plaza’s tenants. She finds an ally in Laila, and soon the girls and their friends are on the case to save Kabul Corner. In her second novel, Senzai ambitiously explores family dynamics and preteen preoccupations alongside immigration, Middle East politics, and even disabilities (Ariana has a mild sensory processing disorder). Though explanations of weightier issues verge on the conspicuous, the book maintains a fairly light touch when helping young readers understand Ariana and her family’s culture, keeping these details in the background and wisely allowing the mystery plot to take center stage. Thoughtfully written, with just the right amount of hint-dropping to get readers guessing, this engaging story features immigrants, minorities, and complex political issues while credibly treating the thoughts and feelings of a twelve-year old girl and the bonds of family. This is one for any preteen interested in the broader world, or just navigating the one at home. AA

– Bulletin

  • South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee
  • Kansas NEA Reading Circle List Junior Title
  • Edgar Allan Poe Award (Finalist)
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection Title

More books from this author: N. H. Senzai

More books in this series: The Kabul Chronicles