“Hadiya’s name is not really Hadiya,” the editor’s note introduces this harrowing, heartbreaking blog-turned-book. “We have used pseudonyms for every Iraqi in this story because each of their lives could be in danger if they were identified. But Hadiya is a real teenager in Mosul, and this is her story.”
When you go to the actual IraqiGirl blog, Hadiya (who spells her name Hadia) writes, “Because names are and will always be the silliest thing belong to us, and no one can be judged by its name [sic]. We are standing behind our acts and behaviors.”
Living in U.S.-occupied Iraq, Hadiya is a teenager who has witnessed far too much death and destruction in her young life. The youngest of three daughters of a doctor father and an engineer mother, Hadiya lives in Mosul in northern Iraq, growing up in the middle of bombs, shootings, and protests. “Normal” for Hadiya is navigating everyday life without electricity, clean water, nor the freedom to even leave the house. “UNnormal,” as she calls it, are the moments being a happy teenager, trying on new clothes, reading Harry Potter, staying up all night with her sister making sweets in a dark kitchen.
Surrounded by an extended family that continues to shrink throughout the book – whether by death or desperate escape out of the war-torn country – Hadiya tries to figure out how she will someday tell her newborn niece how her paternal grandfather was killed by an American soldier as he was walking home. She learns to sleep through falling bombs, although sleep without nightmares is rare. She cries when Bush is re-elected because that means more U.S. solders in her homeland. She is not above sarcasm: “Thank you, America, for your help. You have made my life more difficult that it was. Worse than it was. We are more scared now.” While she respects and regularly thanks “the American people who love Iraq and want peace,” she cannot have anything but fear and loathing for “the Americans who have come to Iraq now.” She wants to tell Obama, “If you can’t get things back to the way it was, if you can’t compensate for all the damage that has happened in my country, then please at least stop the damaging.” Her final words resonate: “Be gentle with the Iraqi.”
While you could read the blog on the Web for a glimpse into the difficult challenges of Hadiya’s young life, the book offers a much deeper overview of her experiences. In addition to an edited version of her blog that covers July 19, 2006 through December 1, 2007, the book includes historical annotation and context, an interview follow-up between Hadiya and the book’s editor, a virtual dialogue in 2006 between Hadiya and students of an American summer academic program, a timeline of the U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, and discussion questions for further exploration. Hadiya’s story continues on her blog … but this book is where you need to start.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult