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For as long as thirteen-year-old Azad can remember, the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he lives in the predominantly Kurdish town of Sardasht, has been at war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and his country has been a harsh society full of spies, secrets, and "disappearances." Still, most of the time Azad manages to live a normal life, hanging out at the bakery next door, going to school with his friend Hiwa, playing sports, and taking care of his parrot. Then Azad learns that his town may soon become a target for ...
For as long as thirteen-year-old Azad can remember, the Islamic Republic of Iran, where he lives in the predominantly Kurdish town of Sardasht, has been at war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and his country has been a harsh society full of spies, secrets, and "disappearances." Still, most of the time Azad manages to live a normal life, hanging out at the bakery next door, going to school with his friend Hiwa, playing sports, and taking care of his parrot. Then Azad learns that his town may soon become a target for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Now more than ever, Azad feels torn between his divorced parents and his conflicting desires to remain in his home or escape. His father is somehow connected to the police and is rooted in the town. His mother may be part of the insurgency, yet is ready to flee. How can Azad make the choice?
The story of how one boy's world was turned upside down in 1987 Iran is a timely and memorable introduction to the conflicts in the Middle East.
"A zad! Wake up!"
I ignored my father’s voice and rolled over, drifting back into the warmth of doughy-sweet sleep. Ah. A little more rest would be so delightful.
"Get up!" my father, Omar, yelled again from the living room.
Oh. School! Was I already late? I sat up with a start, sweaty in the tangled sheets. Glancing at the clock—it was barely 6:00 a.m.—I jumped out of bed and grabbed my shirt.
Yesterday my best friend, Hiwa, and I had been two seconds late for homeroom. Two seconds! Okay, maybe thirty seconds. And Mr. Azizi, our Persian teacher, had hit my hands with his ruler. But Hiwa, who not only was late but had messy hair, he beat with a rubber hose on the backs of his calves. Mr. Azizi told us both to get our hair cut.
"Hey, Bibi!" I took the cloth drape off my parrot’s cage. She looked at me sideways, tipping her head down affectionately. I put a handful of seeds in her cup and made sure her water dish was full. Usually I took her out for a few minutes and talked to her. I told her stories from school, my secrets, my wishes, how Hiwa had a crush on Avin, the beautiful woman my uncle was going to marry in less than two weeks.
"Sorry, Bibi. I can’t play now. Be a good girl while I’m gone. Okay?"
I hurried into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face, glancing at myself in the mirror. I tucked my shirt in, then ran my hand over my short black hair—or what was left of it. Yesterday Hiwa and I had stopped after school at the barbershop and gotten our hair cut as short as possible. I turned my face from side to side to see if any sideburns had grown in overnight. Some guys in my class even had faint mustaches. At thirteen. But not me.
Oof! That barber had scalped us. Oh, well. Better looking like a shorn sheep than getting hit with the rubber hose.
I went into the living room. My dad was sitting on the sofa, where he slept, still in his T-shirt and boxers, smoking a cigarette, staring at the floor. Probably he’d come in late again. He looked tired and hungover, not the least bit ready for his job laying bricks all day.
"Hi," I muttered as I went into the kitchen. He didn’t answer. Another bad mood, I thought in disgust.
I checked our kitchen for food. There was a small piece of a chocolate bar in the door of the refrigerator. I ate that quickly. But I was starving! I was tall and skinny and could eat like a horse without getting the least bit fat.
"What happened to your hair?" my dad asked from the doorway.
"I got it cut short for school. How come there’s never any food?" I asked. Now I would have to go to the bakery next door.
After my mom had left, he didn’t even try to run the household. Buying bread and fruit and cheese on a regular basis seemed to be beyond him. He had let the roses in the courtyard grow into a tangled mass of half-dead branches, which he finally cut down to the roots. I’d loved those roses, but he didn’t care.
"I’m no cook." He shrugged. "And don’t go racing off to your mother’s for food. You go there much too often. Find something else to do once in a while. You should hang out with the kids in the neighborhood more."
I stared at him. What was this? I loved visiting my mother and uncle. My father had never said I couldn’t go there before. Why had he brought this up? But I didn’t have time to argue, or I’d be late. I grabbed my book bag from the chair.
"I have to go." I crossed the living room and headed out the front door. He always made it sound as if my mother had betrayed us, had betrayed me. Even though she was sweet and kind and loving, she’d had to leave me behind. That was how divorce was in Iran. Children over seven had to stay with their fathers. I never understood exactly why my parents had divorced. And I couldn’t get an answer from my father or mother. When I asked my mom, she just smiled and changed the subject. I wished there was some way I could find out.
"See you later," I said.
"By the way, you’re not going to your Uncle Mohammad’s wedding either. And I don’t want you hanging around his crazy friends anymore. You hear me?" he called as I ran down the steps.
Not go to the wedding? There was no way my father was going to stop me. Anyway, over the next two weeks, he’d forget what he’d said.
I hurried across our small courtyard to the bakery next door.
"Good morning!" I called through the open door. The sun was just starting to stream in the front window of the shop, and the two clay ovens were already hot in back. I set my book bag on a café table. Wusta Fatah, the baker, peeked out to see who was there.
"Hey! Good morning, Azad!"
"Azad! Azad! Ooooh!" called his wife, Hero, hurrying from the back and squeezing my face. She handed me two fresh rolls in waxed paper, one filled with chocolate and one with cheese. She slipped me a sealed cup of liquid yogurt to drink.
"Thank you!" I grinned. They were always so good to me.
"No breakfast again? Is your dad home?" Wusta Fatah asked.
"Yeah. But he came in late."
His wife gave the baker a warning look.
"I hope Omar slept soundly. There was a roundup last night because of people like him. SAVAMA took in twenty young men off the streets."
I looked down, blushing. SAVAMA was Iran’s dreaded secret police.
"Fatah! Azad is a fine boy. Just like his uncle," the baker’s wife said sharply. "He has nothing to do with the police. He’s a child still. Don’t worry him with things like that."
"A child? Ha! It’s time he grew up," the baker said.
Now my father’s sullen mood this morning made more sense. It had nothing to do with me and everything to do with what had happened last night. Maybe he simply wanted me to stay closer to home because he felt panicky about the latest roundup. I knew that my father was an informer for the secret police, but it was something no one ever dared to bring up openly, something I tried not to think about. Even though Wusta Fatah seemed to believe my dad had been involved in the roundup, I didn’t.
Wusta Fatah looked at me and shook his head. "Okay, okay. Never mind. Tell Omar that if it weren’t for us, you would starve!" Then he retreated to the hot ovens in the back, grumbling.
I bit into my chocolate roll. The crumbly bread melted deliciously in my mouth.
"I wish you were living with your mother, you know that? She’s such a wonderful woman," Hero said.
I shoved the rest of the pastry into my mouth. The news about the roundup was bothering me. Was I being too trusting? Could my dad be involved in things like that? Why was he suddenly telling me where I could go? Whom I could see? He was getting so weird!
I knew I shouldn’t talk with anyone outside the family about my parents, but at that moment I felt I could trust Hero. She always had a good word for my mom. Of all the people I knew, she would be honest with me.
"Hero, why did my mother and father get divorced?" I asked in a low voice, not wanting Wusta Fatah to hear. "Please tell me."
She didn’t answer. She acted as if I hadn’t spoken.
"Here. Sit down to chew your food. You don’t want to choke." Hero sat down at the café table with me and changed the subject. "Oof. I’m tired already. You know how early we have to get up. I didn’t sleep well last night. Did you hear those planes overhead, Azad? Very low. But no bombs."
"It wasn’t a bombing run!" Wusta Fatah called from the back. "It was an Iraqi reconnaissance mission, that’s why! They were spying on us!"
"Oh, nonsense. Why would they fly a spy mission at night? It’s dark out. Do you think they’re owls?"
"Women! You don’t know anything! The Americans gave Saddam night vision equipment. Trust me. The Iraqis can see us sleeping in our beds!" Wusta Fatah was nearly shouting. "First the Americans spend years financing the secret police for the Shah, and then they give our mortal enemy planes worse than anything imaginable. What are they doing to us, those crazy people?"
"I’d better get going. Yesterday Hiwa and I were late."
"Oh ho! Really?" The baker laughed.
I grinned. "Yeah. The teacher beat us. But it wasn’t my fault. It was Hiwa. You know how lazy he is. He gets up as late as possible."
"He could stand to lose a little weight," the baker said. "Or he’ll look like me soon!" He patted his own round belly.
"Bye!" I called. Outside, I finished the other roll quickly and brushed the crumbs off my shirt. Then I ran down the hill, skidding on loose pebbles that had washed down the hillside in the rain. Stopping at the corner, I peeled the foil cover off the yogurt and drank it, enjoying its cool, smooth, tangy taste. Yogurt was so much better than the boiled milk my father brought home in used soda bottles.
I was in the boys’ middle school, where I studied the Persian language; Arabic; math; science; tech education; and electronics. And history. Persian history not Kurdish history. We weren’t allowed to speak Kurdish in school.
I slowed down, thinking about what Wusta Fatah had told me. Had my father been involved in the arrest of those young Kurdish men last night? I only knew that he hadn’t come home until late. That didn’t mean he had anything to do with the roundup.
Innocent or not, the men would be tortured and executed. They would join the thousands of people who had "disappeared" from our city of Sardasht during this war because the Ayatollah was afraid of a Kurdish revolution. My father might be lazy. He might drink when he shouldn’t. But he would never be part of such a terrible thing! I was sure of it.
• • •
It was 6:30 a.m. when I got to Hiwa’s gate. He had promised to be on time today and waiting for me outside. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t there. Impatiently I threw a pebble at his window.
Tap! Another one. Tap!
Where was he? We had a secret call we used to get each other’s attention. The bray of a donkey, only backwards. Not eee-aww, but aww-eee. Anything to do with donkeys was pretty funny. The word jash, "donkey," was the name for an informer.
I cupped my hands. "Aw-eee! Aw-eee!"
There he was at the window, waving. Why hadn’t he come out to wait? He must have been trying to eat as much as he could before I arrived.
"Come on!" I shouted. I was so annoyed: first my dad saying I couldn’t go to the wedding, then Wusta Fatah telling me my dad was involved in the arrests, and now Hiwa making us late for school again.
He came out through the metal gate in the garden wall, calmly chewing on a large hunk of fresh-baked flatbread his mother had made.
"Here. For your lunch." He handed me a roll filled with rice and spiced meat. I stuffed it in my bag.
"Thanks." When I told my dad that people gave me food each day, he’d said, "The kindness of strangers is a blessing." For him, it certainly was. For me, too.
"We have soccer today in phys. ed. Can’t wait," Hiwa said.
Hiwa loved soccer, but since he didn’t like running up and down the field, he played goalie. He liked diving to the ground to make spectacular saves. He didn’t notice the bruises he got. Hiwa was like a camel; he never felt pain. He hadn’t even cried out when Mr. Azizi beat him with the hose yesterday. All the guys had been impressed and had crowded around us at recess. Hiwa bragged that it had simply felt like being hit with wet spaghetti.
We came to a section of streets where the sidewalks were crammed with metal kiosks. Street vendors were just setting up shop for the day, unloading boxes of shoelaces, apricots, chocolate, batteries, cheap pants, toys, and scarves for women. We inched by them.
"Listen, after school, first let’s walk by the girls’ school and then go to that electronics shop. The new one near the city center? Maybe the owner will let us play with that Atari he has. I want to play the Pac-Man game."
There was only one shop in all Sardasht that sold the electronics games we were obsessed with. But I wanted to tell Hiwa something.
"Yeah. Pac-Man. Cool. Hiwa, listen. I think the baker’s wife knows the real reason my mom left. I’m going to find out."
"The real reason? What do you mean, ‘real reason’? She left because your dad’s a grouch. What other reason could there be?" Hiwa looked at me, puzzled.
"None," I said. "Forget it. Hey, there’s a soccer rerun on TV this afternoon. You want to watch that instead of going to the shop? It’s Pakistan versus Australia."
"No way. We have more pressing concerns."
He pushed his way through the crowded sidewalk and I followed, thinking about the silly Pac-Man game, the blue screen with the funny circle-headed guy chomping his way along the pathways of the maze while the silly music played in the background.
Excerpted from Dawn and Dusk by Alice Mead.
Copyright © 2007 by Alice Weber James.
Published in First edition, 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.
Posted January 10, 2014
NAME•• umm let me think about that one. GENDER••She Wolf. RANK••Packwolf. LOOKS••Sleek back fur with beautiful blue eyes and gray paws. MATE/CRUSH/PUPS•• None/Blaze/ none. FAMILY•• Sisters: Melody(alive); Brothers: Thistle(alive) and Bracken(alive); Mother: Willow(alive); Father: Clawbite. OTHER••Just ask me!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 10, 2014
*packwolf i guess.... ;p<br>
*Sleek red fur with white chest, paws, muzzle, and tailtip<br>
*Ice blue eyes<br>
*Feathers in her fur behind her ear. One eagle and two falcon feathers<br>
*Gentle and kind, but has a snappy cold personality.<br>
*Loyal, protective, defensive.<br>
*No mate... maybe somday <br>
Posted January 9, 2014
Name : Hmm, take a guess... <br> Gender: Male <br> Rank: Alpha Male <br> Personality: He can seem a little harsh, but never mean. He only does what's best for his pack. Very ambitious, in a good way. Apperance: A handsome dark brown he-wolf with darker and lighter streaks across his pelt and bright green eyes. He has a black ear tip, a black paw, and a black tail tip. <br> Kin: <br> •Snowdrop, his sister. Alive. <br> •Sorrow, his mither. Dead. <br> •Malik, his father. Dead. <br> Crush: None yet, sooner or later he'll find a mate. <br> History: To long and despressing a story to tell. I'll save it for a rainy day. <br> Well, I guess that's pretty much it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 15, 2013
Posted November 8, 2013
PELT: a red wolf with an orange tint, green eyes PERSONALITY: brave and exited loves to laugh and make others laugh. Preforms her duties heartlessly sas she loves to please people. AGE: 14 moons MATE OR KITS OR CRUSH: none, i dont really know anyone yet! OTHER: just ask i dont bite!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2013
Name: Copperflare. • Gender: &female • Looks: Brown/red-ish & amber eyes. • Kin: Unknown. • Mate: No. • Crush: Blaze. • Pups: No. • History: Last pack didnt care about her, so she left. • Personality: Brave, calm, loyal, & intellegent.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 16, 2013
If you want to reach and connect with me, i am Julia Daniels on facebook. I go to edward harris jr. middle school. Please if hou would. I love this pack and want to stay in touch.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2013
12 moons. Female. A small brown shecat long black legs. Violet eyes. I will be a loving,caring,risky,and adventourous wolf. I love to look at Blaze and I have no pups. My theme song is thrift shop by macklemore and ryan. I never speak of ny history EVER!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2013
Name//Treble.<p>Age//22 moons.<p>Gender// &female <p>Looks//Pure white coat, short curved tail, bright blue eyes.<p>Personality//Friendly, sweet. Loving.<p>Crush//...<p>Mate or Pups//None.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 21, 2013
Posted August 20, 2013
Posted May 2, 2013
shadownight smiles ( i know try calling her by her real name that will realy freack her out and then if she know that you know it she'll get scared and not attack her real name is nightblaze mearly say the name and it will freack her out ) he smiles and sitsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2013
shadownight chuckles then starts to full on laugh ( you cant defend your self on whats comeing a spirit wolf named night is planing on takeing your pack and killing you but hey if thats what you want tell me to leave right now if you want to find her shes at night class first result i must warn you though dont get to close to her your you'll get burnedWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 1, 2013
shadownight pads in his jet black pelt glisening with his wings at his side ( hello i need to talk to your alpha i am a spirit wolf here to gaurd your little pack here) he sitsWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 8, 2013
Posted April 20, 2013
Posted April 28, 2013
Posted April 18, 2013
Posted May 8, 2013
Posted May 2, 2013