Social Justice in Literature: Shooting Kabul By: Isra Cheema

The harsh reality of our lives is that many individuals face injustice – especially those who belong to different social groups. Literature has become a leading platform through which many advocates of social justice seek to change the way mainstream individuals view the world. In the book Shooting Kabul, N.H. Senzai does just that in a way that young readers can understand and that aims to change their perspectives on and beliefs about the world in which they reside.


Shooting Kabul begins in small-town Afghanistan, where we meet Fadi Nurzai, an eleven-year-old Pukhtun boy living with his family. It’s all he has known his entire life, but everything is turned suddenly upside down for Fadi when his family is forced to illegally escape from their homeland and seek asylum elsewhere due to the oppression that has begun to constrict their country.


The issue of social justice is introduced by bringing in the Taliban, who became oppressors of the Afghans with their corrupted version of Islam. They banned music, television, books, and photography, forced women to wear burkas and shut down girls’ schools. However, Fadi and the rest of his family understand the true meaning of their religion, which promotes equality for all. The injustice they face is ironically sad because they’re being oppressed due to their religious beliefs, but by oppressors who believe they’re following the “correct” version of Islam.


Senzai not only discusses political history in her novel, but also incorporates relevant circumstances that any individual will understand and relate to – like 9/11, after which Fadi gets bullied at his new school, and hate crimes that are committed against the Nurzai family. Being such a kind and generous Muslim family, it shocks them when they witness such hatred and violence. Any reader will be able to feel, understand, and empathize with what Fadi and his family are going through during this hard time.


The author incorporates incredibly relevant facts of life and history into her novel and creates a window into a whole new world for middle school students. This recognizes the importance of bringing social justice issues to the attention of  adolescents. It’s important that individuals understand these realities at a young age so they’re able to grow up as kind, compassionate, open-minded leaders – and literature is just the avenue to do that.


Senzai so clearly illustrates the struggles of each member in the Nurzai family that the reader is able to feel the pain, sadness, and suffering each character goes through. They’re time after time oppressed, shown injustice, and left bereft of opportunities due to the fact that they are displaced Afghan Muslims living in a world that doesn’t understand them. Rendered powerless by many different voices of authority, the entire Nurzai family stays strong by sticking together through thick and thin. Readers young and old will be changed after finishing this novel. But most importantly, they will have a different perspective on the world in which they live.

Cheema, I. “Social Justice in Shooting Kabul.” 2015. TS. The University of Central Oklahoma.

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