There is a month-long event in the book blogger community called Nonfiction November, during which people share their nonfiction book recommendations based on particular prompts. One of these prompts is pairing fiction and nonfiction books. I thought it was such a great idea and a creative way to broaden the types of books I read. I totally missed the boat this past November because I read too slowly, but I thought it would be fun to share my book pairings as they come along!
First up: Girl vs. Taliban. Two stories of brave women who didn’t sit idly when their countries were taken over by overzealous and violent religious radicals.
The Taliban Cricket Club tells the story of an Afghani girl, Rukhsana, who protests against the Taliban – first through her work as a journalist, and then by teaching cricket to her friends as a way to escape the country and its oppressive regime. The reason I picked up the book was because the name was so funny – whoever heard of the Taliban playing cricket?! In fact, this work of fiction was inspired by the Taliban’s real-life support of the game. (It’s one of the few sports that follows their rules and decrees. Read more here!) I enjoyed the book although it was a bit slow in some parts for me. I did learn a few things as well – for example, before the Taliban took over in Afghanistan, it wasn’t common for women to wear the burqa. This religious dress has become something of a symbol of Islam, and perhaps Muslim extremism, and yet, wearing it wasn’t common practice until the Taliban started to enforce it. At the start of the Taliban regime, women had to practise walking and seeing in the burqa, because suddenly they had a bunch of cloth impeding them from doing those two things which had previously been fairly straightforward!
I Am Malala also tells the story of a girl fighting and protesting against the Taliban, but this story is true! There’s a lot more historical context in Malala’s book – mentions of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan in The Taliban Cricket Club were given whole paragraphs in I Am Malala!
One of the things I thought was great about putting these two books together is that the protest in the nonfiction book is so much more evident and bold than in the novel. While Rukhsana quietly and underhandedly protested against the Taliban by playing cricket and looking for ways to help her friends escape the country, Malala spoke out loud in public, denouncing the Taliban for their rules which prohibited girls like her from going to school. Malala was shot for her actions, but she’s still speaking out and fighting for girls’ rights! I think it’s great to see that the real-life subject of a nonfiction book is stronger and more inspiring than the protagonist of a novel.
If you’re interested in current affairs and events in the Middle East, I’d recommend these books for the subject material. In terms of the writing style, I wasn’t blown away and in some instances I was even bored (!), but the stories themselves were great!