Author: Anne Laurel Carter
Publisher: Groundwood Books, 2008
Assigned Reading Age: Youth/Young Adult
Subjects: Family, Political
The Shepherd's Granddaughter is the story of a Palestinian family and their suffering under the occupation. Amani lives with her extended family outside a Palestinian village on land that has belonged to her ancestors for over a thousand years. She is only six years old when she decides she wants to follow in the footsteps of her grandfather and become a shepherd. Although her family has had generations of male shepherds, her grandfather realizes her potential and hands over his shepherd's crook to her. She fulfills his expectations and becomes a great shepherd. Amani's life changes when Jewish settlers intrude into their lives and take over their land, their olive orchards and their sheep. The building of Jewish settlements and construction of a new highway through their land destroys the family's peaceful and pleasant way of life forever.
A well developed and realistic novel, the story of Amani and her family is poignant and sad. It shows the effect of occupation on everyday life. The misery that it creates is heartbreaking at times. The resistance and bravery of the Palestinians is admirable and many of the dilemmas they face are thought provoking. It shows the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a perspective that is not often shown in the media. The book also has many themes that would generate interesting discussions such as multigenerational families, relationships, resilience, importance of education, the struggle to hold on to culture, etc.
The Shepherd's Granddaughter has won many awards including the Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children award. It was nominated by the Ontario Library Association as part of its Forest of Reading Program for Grades 7 and 8. Controversy arose when the Toronto School Board received complaints from a parent and Jewish advocacy groups who condemned the book as 'vehemently anti-Israel'. The board reviewed the book and maintained its earlier decision based on the educational and social benefit of the book. However it is presently reviewing the matter again. The author has defended her book and says it shows the reality of Palestinian life. She has based her story on a family she met near Hebron, whom she visited many times. Her full interview about thebook can be found at http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/education/article/800159--author-defends-the-shepherd-s-granddaughter: Many insightful reviews and blogs about the book can also be found online.
What You Can Do: Read the book, publicize it, buy it, donate it to a school or mosque library, discuss it with others, encourage your friends and family to read it, introduce it in your children's school, Madrasah, home reading program, etc. Do you part in spreading awareness of the the plight of the Palestinian people.