Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Breadwinner

Ellis, Deborah (Author)
Groundwood Books 2001. 174 pages
First published: 2000
ISBN: 9781554987658 (paperback)
9781773061184 (paperback)
9781554980079 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

character, characterization, conflict, dialogue, point of view, setting, structures and features

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

In Kabul, Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to provide for her family, who must remain sequestered in their one-room home. “Ali and Maryam would sit in that ray of sunshine. Mother and Nooria would join them there and, for a few moments, the sun would warm the flesh on their arms and faces. Then the planet would continue its spin, and the sun would be gone again.”

Through Parvana’s perspective, matter-of-fact language conveys the extreme oppressions of Taliban society: the violence against its citizens (such as Father being imprisoned for having a foreign education) and the crushing lack of basic rights for girls and women: the Taliban had “ordered [them] to stay inside their homes,” “forbade [them] to go to school” and her “mother had been kicked out of her job.”

Parvana’s male identity allows for new capability and confidence. Of her shorn head, she notes, “I have a nice face”—a striking contrast to her previous life of downward glances under a modesty chador. The claustrophobic lives of the sequestered women are mitigated by organizing an illegal school and writing articles for an underground magazine. When Father is finally released, he finds much has changed at home. As the first book in The Breadwinner series, the story ends with the family’s own departure from Kabul, to an uncertain future among refugee camps in the north.

  •  

    Discuss why countries go to war. Are there any advantages? What can you do to prevent wars?

  •  

    In small groups, discuss the following statement: “Women should not get an education.” What does a rule like this do for a society? Who is affected? Together, write an answer you could give if you heard someone make such a statement.

  •  

    Using a T-chart, compare a day in the life of Parvana with that of an average North American child/teen.

  •  

    Imagine your family lives in a country at war and that you must provide for them. How would you feel if you had to pretend to be the opposite sex in order to find work? What work could you do to feed your family? Write a plan for what you would do, how long it would take and the benefits to your family.

  •  

    Before reading the story, read the author’s note at the back and discuss what you know about the history of Afghanistan.

  •  In small groups, compare Parvana’s experience with that of a teen in North America. Discuss common elements as well as differences.
  •  

    Read other fiction and non-fiction texts about Afghanistan to gain a richer understanding. Make notes and share new ideas with peers through a talk or a multimodal presentation.

  •  

    Discuss why countries go to war. What is the motivation? What are the disadvantages? Are there any advantages?

  •  

    Define the word breadwinner. In our society, what would happen if a young child were forced to work to feed their family? What measures are in place where you live to ensure that most people are minimally cared for?

  •  

    Use a Venn diagram to compare your life to Parvana’s. Compare your work with that of other students in your class. What do you notice?

  •  

    In small groups, discuss the following statement: “Women should not get an education.” What does a rule like this do for a society? Who is affected? Together, write an answer you could give if you heard someone make such a statement.

  •  

    Discuss the differences between the novel and the graphic novel and record them in a graphic organizer. How is the global message similar or different?

  •  Do some background research on the Taliban’s rule over Kabul. In a small group, discuss the roles of men and women within that society and compare to your own reality.
  •  While you read, pay attention to Parvana’s greatest moments of bravery and fear. Would you have done and felt the same?
  •  

    Fast forward twenty years. Shauzia reunites with Parvana at the top of the Eiffel Tower, as promised. Write a new final chapter, covering their reunion, where they discuss what has happened to each of them over the past twenty years.

  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences