Reviewed by Judith Favor
By Aisha Saeed. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018. 240 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
“But life isn’t fair! I will be a servant for the rest of my life because I spoke back to the wrong person. I will be indebted to him my entire life. I was going to be a teacher. I was going to go to college. All my dreams are gone because one person has the power to crush them.”
Do you know what indentured servitude means? Amal Unbound describes the hurts inflicted on a Pakistani girl who unwittingly insults a man of the ruling family, and winds up a servant at the Khan estate. “A car pulled up outside. The engine cut off. I glanced around my home, taking in one last long look at the worn sofa and handmade rug. My family and friends. . . . I hugged my mother one last time. . . . My first time saying goodbye to everything I had ever known.” The man who took her into bondage also took Amal’s phone so she couldn’t even hear the voices of her loved ones.
Aisha Saeed describes Amal’s life of servitude in plain prose that adds up to a moving story of loss, adversity, and resourcefulness. The author smartly weaves in life lessons for young readers: “My new life was simply about making choices, none of which I actually wished to make.” Amal chooses to sneak books from the owner’s library, teach reading, and speak up in risky situations. When she learns of a murder on the estate, Amal supports the servants in making brave choices that ultimately lead to freedom.
Amal Unbound, set in our time of cell phones and laptops, will lead young Friends into frank discussions on daily choices faced by poor Pakistani and Haitian restavek children today. For shedding light on the courage and determination of young people who face great hardship, this book merits a place in the lives and libraries of young Friends. Amal Unbound helps to create the world Quakers want for people around the globe.