cover image Kiss the Dust

Kiss the Dust

Elizabeth Laird. Dutton Books, $15 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-525-44893-8

Laird weaves compelling facts about the conflicts between the Arabs and the Kurds into her gripping tale about one family's escape to freedom. After witnessing a teen's brutal murder and meeting a wounded revolutionary, 12-year-old Tara begins to realize the extent of persecution in her native Iraq. When her Kurdish father is sought by the secret police, Tara and her family abandon their home and head north to the mountains. Their refuge is short-lived, however; bombs begin to drop and they flee across the Iranian border to a primitive refugee camp. Stripped of their dignity and still not out of danger, the family plots to leave the continent, despite slim chances of asylum. The author personalizes the Kurdish experience by sensitively portraying Tara's feelings of loss, degradation and uprootedness. Although some readers may find the girl's initial naivete as hard to swallow as her abrupt awakening to violence, most will overlook these minor weaknesses as the story's tension rapidly mounts. Even those familiar with political problems in Iraq and Iran may be shocked by the graphic depiction of tyranny--and may sense that despite their hardships, Tara's family fares better than many people who risk their lives for independence. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)