Dawn and Dusk

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… 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?

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“Moving. Mead brings home the tragedy of war through the experiences of one young teen.” –Booklist
From School Library Journal

Grade 5–9—Thirteen-year-old Azad, an Iranian Kurd, narrates Mead’s affecting tale of life during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. The repressive regime of Ayatollah Khomeini has already torn Azad’s family apart. An only child who has lived with his father during the six years following his parents’ divorce, he learns in the course of the novel that his mother left the family because his father, driven by fear, became an informer for the secret police. Along with this familial tension, the Kurds’ untenable situation also undergirds the story. This ethnic group lives in double jeopardy, distrusted by their own government and hated by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. Azad is fortunate in being able to spend time with each of his parents and in being able to leave his home in Sardasht for the rural village where his grandmother lives. The galvanizing event of the months covered by the novel is Hussein’s gassing of Sardasht, which leads Azad, his mother, and other family members to flee Iran for Turkey. Like Elizabeth Laird and Sonia Nimr’s A Little Piece of Ground (Haymarket, 2006), Dawn and Dusk is a tale of children caught in the horror of war, seen from the side of the conflict considered most hostile to American interests. Azad is an appealing protagonist, and it is his simple and direct story that will draw readers through the complexities of a multinational ethnic longing for self-determination that remains at the heart of an international tinderbox.—Coop Renner, Hillside Elementary, El Paso, TX

“A compelling tale.” –The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
From Booklist

In 1987 Saddam Hussein bombed the Kurds in the town of Sardasht, Iran, with chemical weapons he obtained from the West. This short docu-novel tells the horrifying story through the fictional first-person narrative of Azad, 13, a Kurdish boy, who survives the bombing and finally flees across the border to Turkey with part of his family. His dad stays behind. Azad knows that his father is an informer for Iran’s dreaded secret police, but when Dad even betrays his own wife, she leaves him. The politics, though sometimes confusing, is part of the drama, and the secrets and lies break up families and separate friends. After his lavish, three-day Kurdish wedding, Azad’s uncle Mohammad is driven to join the Kurdish resistance. What will his family do while he is gone? Most moving is Azad’s bleak relationship with his father, a traitor, defeated and drunk. As in her novel Girl of Kosovo (2001), Mead brings home the tragedy of war through the experiences of one young teen. –Hazel Rochman

“An important story, and any reader, young or old, wishing to know more about Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Sudan and other troubled spots of the modern world would do well to start with Mead’s many informative works.” –Kirkus Reviews
Teacher’s Guides
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Each of my books about kids in other countries–Iran, the Balkans, Sudan–was created when I got to know kids from other cultures who finally had been resettled in my town of Portland, Maine. They are now American kids, my neighbors and yours, who came from poverty and war.

Read about other parts of the world and take a journey there through the eyes of other kids your age. Travel by stories!