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Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind    by Suzanne Fisher Staples order for
by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 1991
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Shabanu is a coming of age story set in the Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. Its young heroine lives in a Muslim family who raise camels in the desert, moving when their water supply dries up. The family is busy preparing for the marriage of Shabanu's sister Phulan to a cousin, and Shabanu wonders what it will be like when her own turn comes, fearing the restrictions on her freedom, which has been unusual for a girl in Pakistan.

The author paints the family's nomadic light in bright, harsh colors. She shows Shabanu extracting a baby camel from its dying mother, and travelling with her father to Sibi Fair, where they sell camels to Afgan mujahideen and others, in order to raise money for Phulan's dowry. When they return the encampment is engulfed in a raging sandstorm. It almost kills Shabanu's grandfather, who dies on their way to Phulan's wedding at Mehrabpur.

There an unfortunate encounter with the local, greedy landowner results in violence, desert flight, and a reconciliation that will require Shabanu, who is 'small and strong with too much spirit', to give up her own dreams for the sake of her family. Shabanu is a powerful story that exposes some of the harsh reality of women's life in this part of the world. I am anxious to read the sequel, Haveli.

Note: Shabanu is a Newbery Honor Book.

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