We lived in Khartoum, Sudan with our children. We’d lived several places in Europe before that, and I thought i was an experienced expatriate. Sudan, however, stunned me. It was so very, very different from any other place I had ever lived! I watched in surprise as my children fitted themselves comfortably into the rhythms of this strange and lovely place.
Deep in the Sahara is set in a non-specified African country, but to me it screamed, “Sudan!” After the first time I read the book, I immediately turned back to the beginning and read it again. It captures for me the beauty, mystery, and awe of that haunting place.
The story is simple. A young girl wishes she could wear a head scarf like the older women around her. They listen patiently to her–she wants a head scarf so she can be beautiful, mysterious, older. Slowly, in the course of the book, she comes to a new realization of why she wants to wear a head scarf: as an expression of her deepest faith.
Technically, this book isn’t nonfiction, but it deals so sensitively with the question of religion and why women wear headscarves that I think it deserves to be read with nonfiction books about the region and about religion. The “Author’s Note” at the end is excellent at putting the book into cultural context. I wish I’d had this to read over and over to my children when we were in Sudan, but I’m glad it’s here now to pull out as we talk about other people’s faith practices.
Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunane, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. Schwartz & Wade: 2013.