The world of Newbery Honor book Shabanuis vividly re-created in this novel of a young Pakistani woman's heartbreaking struggle against the tyranny of custom and ancient law. Shabanu, now a mother at 18, faces daily challenges to her position in her husband's household, even as she plans for her young daughter's education and uncertain future. Then, during a visit to the haveli,their home in the city of Lahore, Shabanu falls in love with Omar, in spite of traditions that forbid their union.
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A charpoi is a type of bed or cot. Does the description in this sentence match what you see in the picture below? (This annotation contains an image)
A chadr, or spelled more commonly as a chaddor, is a long cloth that is worn on a woman's head. Many middle eastern countries practice this tradition. (This annotation contains an image)
Italicized words in this text will often be Pakistani phrases or foreign words. This particular highlighted phrase is a type of clothing worn by women in Pakistan. It is similar to an America dress but has a distinct type of patterning and is usually adorned with a long scarf. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes the setting in which we first meet Shabanu?
Did you know there is a built-in tool for Curriculet that lets you find the definition of most of the words you read in this text? Simply drag your cursor over a single word to highlight it, then choose the "Define" option from the pop-up menu. The definition tool will bring up definitions for that word. If a word is not in the dictionary, then select the option to look it up in Google. Note that many of the foreign words you encounter in this text will not have a definition in the standard English dictionary. Look up the highlighted word here for practice.
What feelings do Rahim's other wives have towards Shabanu?
The feelings of jealousy and hatred that the other wives have towards Shabanu come from her refusing to engage with their accusations and conflict. She ignores the mean things they say and do, and acts unaffected. One of the best ways to defend oneself from a bully (or bullies in this case) is to let them know that they can't get under your skin. It may make them more upset, but they hate themselves for knowing you are stronger than they are.
Which of the following words is a synonym for "insipid"? (Use the define tool to help you).
Anytime the prophet Muhammad's name is mentioned, a blessing follows his name. This is a common practice in Islam and is referred to as a salawat. This phrase is also used in Judaism after mention of the dead. In America, we have a similar phrase we say after we mention someone who has passed away--rest in peace. For example, "This is where my Uncle Joe, rest in peace, lived."
Figurative language plays in important role in the telling of this story. The author's artistic style relies on both similes and metaphors to provide connections with objects that we can relate to. Watch the following video and then answer to yourself what type of literary device is highlighted and how it helps you visualize the story. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Rahim most likely believe about the incidents that Shabanu reports to him?
Mahrabpur is another city in Pakistan. It is south to where Shabanu currently resides. The map below indicates its location. (This annotation contains an image)
This is a modern custom within Pakistan. It has a utilitarian purpose, but it may seem very unusual to us. To the Pakistani people, however, it is commonplace. As you come across other customs, try to understand their purpose in the eyes of this culture. They may seem strange to you, but to them, they are quite normal. The following video provides information on how cultural perspective influences a text. (This annotation contains a video)
There are several conflicts that Shabanu faces in this story. The first is the hatred Rahim's other wives have for her. The second is the plot that Amina, specifically, wants to carry out with regards to arranged marriages that will put her son and her lineage in line to inherit Rahim's wealth and land. Shabanu is not power or property hungry, but she deeply opposes injustice. She knows that bad people in charge will corrupt her land and her home.
Which of the following is most likely true about Ahmed?
Salaams are a formal greeting that one Muslim gives to another. In Islam, this greeting is accompanied by other words that give a blessing to the person one meets. The following video is from a speech given to Muslims instructing them on how and when they should give salaams. Notice how important the speaker feels this greeting is. Contrast the way an Islamic person greets someone with the way you greet a person. Are there similarities? Differences? (This annotation contains a video)
What are a few of the conflicts that Shabanu faces in the opening chapters of this novel? Please cite evidence from the text to support your response.
What do the comments from the crowd suggest about Rahib?
This is the official emblem of Pakistan. Take a moment and see if you can find and think of similar symbols to our United States emblems. (This annotation contains an image)
During the late 1800s and early 1900s the British empire occupied various countries throughout the world. The area in which this story takes place, Pakistan, did not exist as a nation until the 1940s. Below is a map that shows which geographical areas were colonized by Western nations. (This annotation contains an image)
Pakistan has over 180 million people in its population. The majority of them live in poverty.
What is the main reason Rahim is so adamant about carrying out the marriage of Ahmed to Zabo?
An emerging theme in this novel is that part of growing up is learning when to rebel and when to stay put. Shabanu learns this lesson early on as she has to marry Rahim. Because she lives in a culture where women are more subject to the decisions of men, she and other women have fewer choices about their lives.
What tone do Shabanu and Zabo have as they talk about the imminent marriage to Ahmed?
The following video discusses the differences between internal and external conflict. The main character in this story, Shabanu, has both types of conflicts. Make sure you understand the difference between these two. This Curriculet will include several questions about the different conflict she faces. (This annotation contains a video)
What does this simile intend to better help us understand about Shabanu?
Which of the following is most similar in meaning to the way "electrified" is used in the text?
This story is told from the perspective of someone other than the main character, Shabanu. The author, however, gives us insight into Shabanu's feelings and thoughts (as well as the other characters'). This is known as third-person omniscient. The author is not in the story, but she knows everything that each character thinks and feels. The detail that is highlighted here provides an emotion that you should be able to relate to--waking up so early in the morning that it feels as if you are the only one alive. Have you ever done this?
What techniques does the author use to zoom in on the inner-world of Shabanu? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What is the main reason Shabanu provides Mumtaz with a new shalwar kameez?
Shabanu also is very fond of animals. In the first book of this series, she befriends her family's camels. Her bond with animals is a central theme in the first book about how young children learn to relate sometimes better to animals than to people because of how much they can be trusted. Animals provide emotional security and real friendship. Have you ever befriended an animal in this way?
What theme do Shabanu's actions reveal in her reaction to the incident with Ibne?
In describing the conditions of her household, what conflict does Shabanu experience?
A neem tree is shown below. The leaves from this tree have many practical purposes, including medicinal and cleansing uses. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is considered the main external conflict in this story?
A "syed" is, as the story says, someone in the prophet Muhammad's lineage. This word is used as a title, much like we might call someone "Your Honor" or "Reverend." Can you think of any other honorary titles we use in our culture to denote respect?
This is also a term of respect, meaning "master."
What can you infer based on Rahim's comment that is highlighted here?
Each character in this novel will be developed by the author. This means that the author will use certain events, elements, and techniques within the story to show how complex (or simple) some characters really are. The following video discusses character development. Watch this video and be prepared to answer questions about how characters develop throughout the story. (This annotation contains a video)
In what way does Shabanu deal effectively with her tormentors?
The Basant is a festival in which people fly kites to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The festival also holds an important religious meaning for Hindus, who celebrate it as well in the neighboring country of India. The video below provides a view into the life of a kite maker and this tradition. (This annotation contains a video)
A tonga cart is a simple horse-drawn carriage. The image below shows one from Pakistan. (This annotation contains an image)
Which detail from this section is meant to make us feel that a lot of time has passed since Shabanu last saw her family in the desert?
Notice the intentional contrast that Shabanu thinks about between her desert family and her city family. Another theme emerges more visibly as we now see Shabanu in her hometown. Her rural background and connection with nature and modest living make her stand out among the more lavish and pampered lifestyle of Rahim's family.
What is the author's intended use of this simile? Use evidence from the story to support your response.
Why do Sharma and Fatima gain the reputation of being witches?
Why does Sharma give Shabanu a plant?
Part I Quiz
Arranged marriages have been the basis of many great literary works. Some are welcomed; some are not. Some teach the value of growing to love the other person; others teach the value of finding true love (and not marrying that person). What seems to be the driving force behind this marriage and how do you think this compares to the reason most people you know get married?
Read the following quote and answer the question that follows: "We who are of noble blood may not follow the wishes of our hearts." -Jane Olsen, The Cabinet of Dr. CaligariIn what ways does this quote relate to both Zabo and Shabanu? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What significance does the haveli have with respect to Shabanu?
In other countries, people often aspire to Western values, like learning to speak English or picking up American or British traditions. Although not everyone does this, people in other places realize that America presents more opportunity in terms of personal liberty than other countries do. The nobility in Pakistan learn English because many of them plan to travel to or do business with people in America or Europe. In their eyes (some of them, at least) it makes them more valuable.
What is Rahim feeling right now? Use context clues to determine the best choice below.
Marriages in some cultures are a way for two warring tribes or fighting siblings to show peace. Both marriages in this story will unite the land of three brothers. All the persons who are subjects in these tribal lands will also be part of the unification.
Why is it so difficult for Zabo to come to terms with marrying Ahmed?
Shabanu reassures Zabo that she will be with her through the difficult marriage to Ahmed. Although Rahim asked Shabanu to convince Zabo to marry Ahmed, Shabanu's pledge is really out of loyalty to Zabo. She is not conniving so that Rahim will be appeased. One might wonder, though, if, at some point, Shabanu decides to convince Zabo not to marry Ahmed--for the sake of being happy.
What mood is the author trying to convey in this scene through the use of descriptive details?
Why does Shabanu give us the sense that the haveli is a safe haven? Use details from the story to support your response.
Which detail provides the sense that the haveli has a rich history of being well-taken care of?
How do Zabo's comments advance the theme she is touching upon?
A variety of masala spices are shown below. These spices are intensely aromatic and form the basis for many curry dishes--a cuisine popular in India, Pakistan, and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries. (This annotation contains an image)
What can you infer based on the highlighted lines from the story?
Which idea does Omar painfully remind Shabanu of?
Although this story about a brother who plotted evil against his own family seems to be arbitrary, it serves a couple of important points in the story. First, it gives cultural context to the land where Shabanu lives. She lives in a land where brothers conspire against each other for land, power, and wealth. It also shows how close Selma and Daoud are to each other. There is a level of mutual respect that stands far above the one that Rahim has with Shabanu. This story, therefore, develops two of the most important themes in this story--the consequences of power struggles and forced marriages versus true love.
In what way does Shabanu's milieu influence the choices that a Pakistani woman can make? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
The following scene from Disney's Aladdin should remind you of what is going on between Omar and Shabanu. There is a cultural difference between the two that causes tension. What similarities do you see between Jasmine and Aladdin and Omar and Shabanu? (This annotation contains a video)
Why is Zabo quickly becoming in trouble with Rahim?
The chances that Zabo produces a child with a mental impairment like Ahmed is high. The worry about this happening would haunt her mind as she waited for the child to be born.
What is the purpose of this flashback to Shabanu's earliest experiences in Rahim's household?
There can be no runaway brides in Pakistan. According to the laws, a woman who deserts her obligation to be married, would be killed.
Briefly explain the conflict that Shabanu is facing and whether or not it is internal or external conflict. Use evidence from the text to support your response.
The gentleman below is wearing a lungi, a wrap that men wear to cover their lower half. It is common attire in India, Pakistan, and a few other middle eastern countries. (This annotation contains an image)
Why was Shabanu so pleased with Zabo?
A dowry is a gift given by the wife's family to the husband's. A gift like this is customary in many non-western countries. However, if you think more carefully about it, you can think of ways that our culture is similar. Does the wife's family in American culture have any financial obligation during a marriage?
What is Zabo's attitude towards Selma?
A "dupatta" is shown below. It is draped across the shoulders, usually to cover the bosom. It can also be worn across the face. It is a symbol of elegance and modesty in South Asian cultures. (This annotation contains an image)
What has Shabanu been "searching for all her life"?
Zabo is being forced to marry someone she has not chosen in order to bring peace to her land. She is considered a peace offering. The following video from Disney's Brave shows the suitors that have been chosen for the young princess. She is to be given away for a similar reason--to bring peace to her father's land. (This annotation contains a video)
How is the jewelry supposed to help Zabo escape?
Which theme does the new tutor develop in this story?
Omar will most likely take over Rahim's political, social, and economic duties. He will become the "chief," so to speak, of the tribes.
What effect(s) does Ahmed's appearance have on Zabo? Why? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
What major difference does Omar highlight between American and Pakistani life?
Although putting up a front, or a facade, might be a character trait that would raise a red flag, in this context, it is a matter of survival. Shabanu's strength, one could argue, is maintaining her core values even though she has to conform her behavior to societal expectations. Have you ever experienced a time when you had to behave one way but felt and thought differently inside? As you learn about Shabanu's coping mechanisms, watch the following video on character development. (This annotation contains a video)
Which aspect of the story's plot does the roof scene most significantly develop?
Define the highlighted word. Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite in meaning) of "bereft" as it is used in this context?
Think about the cultural differences that exist between the American concept of marriage and love and that of Islamic Pakistan. In America, men and women do not have the same consequences for cheating on their spouses. There is no law against this. Without passing judgment on the seemingly harsh law of marriage, can you see why this law is in place? Do you think a law like this would prevent divorces and infidelity in America?
According to Selma, what justifies the men in her land to take several wives?
A "muezzin" is a holy man who calls Muslims to prayer. Muslims pray often, and face towards Mecca, where their prophet Mohammed heard God tell him to pray towards this location. Traditionally, all Muslims pray in this direction as a way to unite and honor their prophet. (This annotation contains an image)
Which word best summarizes how Shabanu feels about the haveli?
What can be inferred about the people who help Zabo participate in her scheme?
Rahim's tone and demeanor suggest that he is upset about something, although we never learn what he is upset about. What mood does this create in the story? It should create an element of suspense. We are left wondering if he knows Shabanu's secret or Zabo's plans.
The following video shows a young girl's perspective on the Anarkali Bazaar. Think about how her experiences here relate to Shabanu and Zabo's. (This annotation contains a video)
In what way does Shabanu relate to Anarkali? Use evidence from the text to cite at least three similarities.
Omar is referring to the differences between Islamic law and law in a more democratic nation, like America, which has a Bill of Rights. Rights in Pakistan are given unequally, especially along gender lines. However, to put things in perspective, women in our country were not afforded many of the rights they have today until the last several decades. The Women's Rights Movement in the 1920s made a big difference in gender equality.
Part II Quiz
What is the highlighted simile meant to convey?
Although not exactly like the caste system in India, in which a person basically had no ability to move upward socially or economically, the social structure of Pakistan was one that also limited a person's ability to socially advance. People from lower classes, like farmers and merchants, were looked upon condescendingly by people from higher social classes. Amina and Layla's comments here highlight the ridicule that Shabanu had to constantly face because of where she came from.
Which details from the story show that Shabanu is having a hard time coping with her internal conflict to not act upon her love for Omar? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Why does Rahim's announcement to Shabanu have such a devastating effect on her and the other women in the household?
Shabanu feels relieved because she finally knows that someone else knows what she is going through. Part of what made her so consumed with grief was that she was trying to keep her feelings a secret. Not having anyone to confide in can make a person feel very burdened and alone.
A "hakkim" is a wise man. The man that Shabanu encounters here is prophetic, meaning he tries to interpret the future. Pay attention to the future he sees for Shabanu and think about how this adds suspense to the main conflict of the story.
What does Shabanu most likely mean in the highlighted phrase?
As a political leader, and practical king to the people in his region, Rahim has to intervene when bad things happen to his people. His approach, though, reveals that he is not able to sympathize with pain and injustice his subjects experience. Many leaders have been criticized for such a lack of understanding.
Which detail from the story is meant to portray Nazir in a negative light?
Nazir is another extremely harsh character in the story. In what ways does he further develop the theme of Shabanu's struggle with power? Use evidence from the text to support your response.
Sharma has given Shabanu a contraceptive to give to Zabo. It is not clear what the contraceptive is, but we can know it's some kind of plant that may act like a spermicidal agent.
In what way do Shabanu's beliefs give her hope?
Pakistan, India, and other countries in Southeast Asia are threatened every year by monsoons--heavy seasonal rains caused by a shift in wind patterns in the ocean. Rain falls on hard soil, has no way to absorb into the soil, and causes massive runoff that creates flooding and causes many fatalities. The video below shows some of the devastation from a recent monsoon. (This annotation contains a video)
What can we infer about Shabanu and her feelings towards Omar at this point in the story?
What theme does Choti's death highlight?
Mahendi or henna is a paste, almost like ink, that is intricately drawn onto women's hands before the wedding. It is not permanent like a tattoo, but can last several weeks. The designs represent good luck, and are, therefore, applied to the bride's hands before her wedding. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the following video on foreshadowing. Think about how this chapter opens. What could this monsoon on the wedding day foreshadow? (This annotation contains a video)
Why would Shabanu be so upset about Amina adding Mumtaz to the apprenticeship class?
Instead of kissing her on the lips like a wife, he patronizingly kisses her on the head--the same way a father might his daughter. While we aren't sure what is going on with Rahim, it seems as if the burden of his kingdom is finally starting to have a toll on him.
What does Shabanu's wedding attire really symbolize?
This is the wise man who gave Shabanu a bad omen about her future and the wedding and cautioned her to be vigilant for evil.
How is Selma an exemplar for both Zabo and Shabanu?
The elaborate attire, mocking descriptions of the female guests, and a general sense of crude, malicious intent are all carefully woven details the author uses to give us the impression that these women are not nice people. The author certainly doesn't mince words in explain her disgusts with the upper class women in this story, who are both pretentious and evil. Selma is the only one who is praised for her uprightness and character. What other literary works have you read where the upper class is portrayed similarly, as snobs and wicked individuals?
In what way do the events in this chapter highlight the theme of coping with tragic loss? Cite two examples and explain how each character deals with loss.
Ahmed became so intoxicated that he had no time to procreate with Zabo. Why Nazir would do this adds an element of suspense to the plot. Is he up to something?
In what way does Shabanu further place herself in danger through her conversation to Zabo?
If Omar's wedding is moved forward, as Zabo's was, then her plans for escape to the desert might fail. She had told her Aunt to meet her during the previously planned dates for Omar's wedding. Now, she's not sure how to coordinate her escape.
What specific trait does Shabanu develop that helps her overcome adversity?
Read the following poem by Langston Hughes below, and answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a link)
What similarities can you identify between Langston Hughes' poem and Shabanu's life? Use evidence from both texts to support your response.
Nazir's plot is starting to unfold before everyone's eyes. It appears he has been clandestinely taking possession of Rahim's land. Now that Rahim knows, we are left in the suspense of not knowing what he will do next. What are your predictions about how all of this will turn out with the brothers?
In what way does Rahim's death most benefit Shabanu?
Shabanu has had various shades of "imprisonment" in this story. Her captivity by Nazir, though, seems much worse than what she experienced before with Rahim, especially after she learns, through his death, that he was really a noble man.
Which of the following does not give Shabanu hope in the despondent setting in which she is kept?
Zabo is in shock. She is paralyzed by fear. Contrast this with the way Shabanu thinks and feels about the situation.
Although seeking revenge for Rahim's death, Omar is really seeking ______ for what has happened.
The Desert Rangers is a group of highly trained military personnel, who protect the borders of Pakistan. They were originally founded in the 1950s after Pakistan won its independence. They are still a vibrant military force in modern day Pakistan. (This annotation contains an image)
What can the reader infer about Shabanu based on the type of figurative language that is used in this passage to describe the camels?
In what ways does Shabanu compensate for what Zabo lacks? Use evidence from the text to describe the many ways in which Shabanu helps Zabo?
In Pakistan, where someone is buried is of utmost importance. In America, we might expect everyone to be buried in a cemetery, with the only difference between persons being their tombstones and caskets. However, in other countries, and even in America at one time, the wealthier were given much more attention at death. Their burial grounds were prime real estate and there were special rules about who could be buried there. To be buried in the spot of someone important, meant you too had to be of importance.
How does Zabo's death affect Shabanu?
A common motif in this work, as you may have noticed, is that of death. Many characters have died, and now Shabanu, too, must fake her death. In literature, faking one's death is a common motif. In other stories, like Huckleberry Finn, characters die, only to be reborn. This cycle is part of character development, and most characters usually are reborn with having grown stronger and more prepared to take on their central conflicts. The following video discusses motif. Watch it, and think of other motifs that exist in this story or the way death is woven into the plot. (This annotation contains a video)
The video below is a scene from Tom and Huck's funeral. Everyone else thinks they are dead; they are not. Compare this scene to that of Omar at Shabanu's gravesite. (This annotation contains a video)
By watching Omar mourn her "death" what difficult decision must Shabanu make?
In what way does the description of the haveli affect the mood of this part of the story?
With Rahim dead, Amina, his eldest wife, is now in charge. She wants Layla and Omar to still be married as planned, in order to secure her family in a position of political and social leadership.
Part III Quiz