cover image Moon at Nine

Moon at Nine

Deborah Ellis. Pajama Press (Orca, dist.), $19.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-927485-57-6

“Her whole life was about living with lies,” writes Ellis (the Breadwinner series) of 15-year-old Farrin Kazemi’s situation in 1988 Tehran. At home, Farrin’s mother is secretly working to remove the Ayatollah Khomeini from power, while her father takes advantage of Afghan refugees in his construction business. At school, Farrin’s every act is scrutinized by an unforgiving principal and the vindictive class monitor. Farrin writes fantasy stories to escape her highly controlled life, and she finds another ray of hope in the friendship of musician and kindred spirit Sadira, who’s new at school. The girls become romantically involved, a crime punishable by death. Inspired by the life of an Iranian woman Ellis met (“This story is essentially hers,” she notes), the novel powerfully depicts lives pulled apart by outside forces and the warmth of falling in love. A firm grounding in Iranian history, along with the insight and empathy Ellis brings to the pain of those whose love is decreed to be immoral and unnatural, make this a smart, heartbreaking pairing with Sara Farizan’s recent If You Could Be Mine. Ages 14–up. (Apr.)