Elsa Marston
children's author

Comments about SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD...


"Marston's timely and engaging collection of eight short stories offers provocative snaphots of Arab teenagers growing up in environments riddled with religious, historical and cultural dilemmas." (Kirkus Reviews, starred)

"Touches of suspense, romance, and humor keep the pages turning in this fine collection. Themes of faith, loyalty, and coming-of-age are sensitively handled and compellingly depicted. ...an excellent supplemental reading choice for world-cultures curricula." (School Library Journal)

"...the perfect example of how writers can change the world by changing perceptions. Marston takes us away from the stereotypes and puts us at the heart of a people who are often misunderstood by the Western world."
(Multicultural Review)

"In these and other stories, Marston, who has lived and visited the countries of which she writes, offers a realistic portrait of the Middle East that mixes possibility and bleakness in equal measure." (VOYA, highlighted)

"This collection will be invaluable for Arab American YAs and for all in our culture eager to understand the Arab culture, the Middle East conflicts, and current events." (Kliatt)

Forthcoming in 2014:
Just published, 2013:
Fiction, young adult
An adventure in ancient Egypt
Poetry
poems inspired by animals depicted in Southwestern rock art
Nonfiction
a look at the variety of women's lives in the Middle East and North Africa
History
Stories in Y-A collections
in FIRST CROSSING AND OTHER STORIES OF IMMIGRANT TEENS
in MEMORIES OF SUN: STORIES OF AFRICA AND AMERICA (2004)
in SOUL SEARCHING: THIRTEEN STORIES ABOUT FAITH AND BELIEF

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SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD--AND OTHER STORIES ABOUT TEENS IN THE ARAB WORLD


... Amal, in the title story, wants to regain her social place in school after missing a year due to illness. She volunteers to buy a gift for a departing teacher; but how can she get the perfect gift when money is so short--and her little brother, who has never had a toy of his own, expects Santa Claus to bring him a red car?

... Mujahhid throws stones at the Israeli soldiers occupying his town, Bethlehem . . . but his face-to-face encounter with the enemy, over the destruction of an olive grove, gives him something more to think about.

... The life of Wafa's beautiful cousin is in danger, for she has defied a cruel tradition. Can Wafa's new school friend Yasmine, from a family as progressive as Wafa's is conservative, really be trusted to help?

These stories about Arab teenagers today provide a bridge from there to here, by highlighting concerns that young people face just about everywhere: finding a good friend, dealing with parents' divorce, fitting in at school, seeking one's own dreams, discovering new horizons, standing up to injustice. Although not the main focus, political situations and social traditions provide realistic backgrounds. The reader will gain a better understanding of what life is like in these societies torn between tradition and change--and may be surprised to find that some things have a very familiar ring.

The author has lived in or visited the settings of all of these stories. Unlike the earlier and much shorter edition (FIGS AND FATE), author's notes are included for each story, explaining and expanding on some topics and providing ideas for class discussion.

SANTA CLAUS IN BAGHDAD has received the silver 2009 Independent Publishers' Book Award (IPPY) for multicultural children's fiction, and was named an Outstanding Title by the AAUP Books for Public and Secondary Libraries.


AND NOW ... ON THE BIG SCREEN!

The title story has been made into an award-winning film, "Santa Claus in Baghdad," which had its world premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in August 2008, and has been shown in film festivals and educational venues all over the country since then. It is especially appropriate for use in schools, middle school to college; the DVD includes a study/​discussion guide. The filmmaker, Raouf Zaki, and I have given joint presentations, discussing the book and the film, at Yale University and Indiana University; the film was also a hit at a workshop I gave at the University of Chicago. For more information about "Santa Claus in Baghdad" the film, and how to obtain the DVD, see the website: www.santaclausinbaghdad.com.