Words in the Dust is an extraordinary novel about a courageous girl in Afghanistan written by debut author Trent Reedy. Inspired by a real girl whom the author met in Afghanistan while serving in the military, Words in the Dust is both a fascinating glimpse of a country whose destiny is linked with America’s own, and a captivating story of choices, chances, and discoveries. The author will donate a portion of the proceeds in connection with the publication of the book to Women for Afghan Women, a grassroots civil society organization dedicated to securing and protecting the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls.


When Trent Reedy was in western Afghanistan in support of the U.S. reconstruction effort, he was dismayed by the injustices women and girls were subjected to under the oppression of the Taliban. When his unit met a brave young girl who suffered from a cleft palate, he and his fellow soldiers pooled their money to pay for her flight to the main base where an army doctor had volunteered to conduct the corrective surgery. Reedy witnessed both her physical and emotional transformation. “The very best moment of my time in Afghanistan was seeing her smile,” said Reedy. The girl became a symbol of the indomitable spirit of all Afghans, women in particular, and inspired the story of Zulaikha in Words in the Dust.


Cow. Wall. Moon. Love. These are the words Zulaikha knows how to write, tracing their swirls in the dust of the Afghan mountains. She hopes for peace, now that the Taliban have been driven from Afghanistan; a good relationship with her difficult stepmother; and one day even to go to school, or to have her cleft palate fixed. Then American soldiers roll into her village, bringing new threats and opportunities, even the chance of an operation to fix her deformity. Meanwhile, a woman named Meena offers to teach her to read, adding to her precious store of words. But wishing for change can be dangerous. As her world shifts around her, Zulaikha must find the right way to use all her words to claim a future as yet unwritten.


Trent Reedy became fascinated with Afghanistan when he served there with the U.S. Army. Upon his return to the United States, he enrolled in the Writing for Children MFA program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he wrote the first drafts of Words in the Dust. Born and raised in Iowa, where he taught high school English, Trent and his wife now live in Washington state.


A fascinating novel

set in Afghanistan

through the eyes

of one brave girl

by a brilliant new voice in literature


Press Contact: Charisse Meloto; 212-389-3785; cmeloto@scholastic.com

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By Trent Reedy


Photographs from Afghanistan

Photo Credit: Trent Reedy


Video clips from Afghanistan

Words in the Dust

By Trent Reedy

Arthur A. Levine Books

Publication Date: January 2011

ISBN: 978-0-545-26125-8/ Ages 9 and up