Review: The Eleventh Trade

Posted November 25, 2018

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Eleventh Trade The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth
Published by Piccadilly Press on 18th September 2018
Genres: Middle Grade
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

Back in Afghanistan, before the Taliban came, Sami's grandfather was a famous musician. People would come from miles around and pay thousands to hear him play the rebab.

Now Sami and his grandfather are refugees living in Boston. The rebab is their most valuable possession and a reminder of home.

Then one terrible day, the rebab is stolen. Sami's grandfather is devastated. His last link with home is gone and with it, his livelihood. Sami resolves to get the rebab back as a surprise for Eid. When he finds it on ebay, with a hefty price tag attached, he begins to trade the few possessions he has – and as he does, he finds, to his surprise, that there are all kinds of people willing to help.

A Wee Summary

Sami is a 12-year-old refugee. He and his grandfather, Baba, left Afghanistan finding their ways through Iran, Turkey and Greece before finally ending up in Boston, USA.

Sami’s Baba was a famous musician in Afghanistan, before the Taliban. Now, his Baba plays his rebab at T-train stations, busking for money to keep himself and Sami afloat.

When Baba’s rebab – their source of income, joy and memories of home – is stolen, Sami tries to track it down to reunite his Baba with his love.

Sami eventually finds the stolen rebab for sale, but he has no money to buy it back. So, he starts out small, trading what little he has in order to try and gather the funds. With the help of his new-found friends, Sami sets out to make things right.

My Thoughts

This is such a wonderful story filled with kindness, friendship, hope, and music.

It’s more than that though. It is a story of Pashtun culture, of fleeing your home and everything you know to find safety. While we follow Sami’s quest to retrieve the rebab, we are introduced to his past and everything that has happened to bring this 12-year-old boy to Boston, searching for his grandfather’s cherished instrument.

It’s an important tale for young and old, with the details of Sami’s Afghan life and his journey fleeing his home built upon the true lives of refugees.

While Sami find friends through ‘soccer’ and the mosque, and builds a support network, it’s not all kindness. Hollingsworth explores the kind of racism and hate shown towards Afghan refugees though a school bully, Peter. It’s power and real, with a strong message for readers.

My small niggle with this book was the Americanised description of Sami’s sport of ‘soccer’. ‘Offense’, ‘defense’, ‘points’, just didn’t feel right – ‘defenders’, ‘strikers’, and ‘goals’ would have been better. But, since Sami is a Manchester United support I can overlook this!!

All in all, this is a wonderful read. It offers a glimpse into the lives of Afghan refugees as the worlds of two different cultures collide. Not only is it a very readable story, but it offers insight and shares stories which we should all be aware of. If we are ever going to reduce hate, it’s books like this, targeted at the young, that will help us to do so.