ENDURING FREEDOM by Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy (2021)

Hard-hitting and powerful, ENDURING FREEDOM begins with the events of 9/11 as experienced by two young men living on opposite sides of the world. Baheer is a teen living under harsh conditions in Afghanistan. Joe is a senior in high school and a member of the U.S. National Guard.

The opening chapters are in Baheer’s point of view and we see the heartbreaking conditions of living under the rule of a dangerous and restrictive regime. Baheer and his family risk everything just to watch smuggled movies and taped news footage. When the family learns of the 9/11 attacks, they have a great fear of what America’s response will be, supposing they might strike back against anyone of their culture.

Meanwhile at a high school in Ohio, we see Joe’s reaction to 9/11 and for those of us who were around, this hits home all too well, conjuring up the fear, sorrow, anger and anxiety we felt that day.

The story quickly moves ahead to 2003 when Joe is deployed to Afghanistan where he and Baheer meet and form an unlikely friendship in the midst of war.

The story of Baheer and Joe is largely based on the real-life experiences of authors Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy. The result is a remarkable piece of writing that is rooted in authenticity, giving us an accurate portrayal of what it was like to be an Afghan teen and a U.S. soldier during the early years of Operation Enduring Freedom.

It’s an exceptional and important book that should be required reading for everyone – from high school students to government officials – but be warned, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Especially the pulse pounding, heartbreaking battle near the end.

Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy, thank you for writing this.

ENDURING FREEDOM was published in 2021 by Algonquin Young Readers, a division of Workman Publishing.

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