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Breadwinner, The (ATOM Study Guide)

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    Eleven-year-old Parvana lives with her family in Kabul, Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Parvana helps her father, Nurullah, in the marketplace where he reads and writes letters for people to earn a living. To pass the time and to educate Parvana, who is no longer allowed to attend school, Nurullah tells his daughter stories.

    One day, her father is arrested, and Parvana's life is changed forever. In a time and place where women are not allowed to leave home without men, her family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

    Parvana's mother, Fattema, is left alone to care for their three children. She risks arrest herself as she travels with Parvana to Pul-e-Charkhi prison to demand her husband’s release. Fattema is beaten and turned away as she makes her way there.

    Parvana takes her destiny into her own hands when she decides to cut her hair and disguise herself as a boy, turning herself into the breadwinner for the family. After Parvana cuts her hair and starts to wear her brother’s clothes, she is able to wander the streets of the city without fear of being harassed, purchase the supplies that her family needs, and make a new friend.

    Parvana's friend, Shauzia, also dresses as boy. Shauzia teaches Parvana how to earn money on the streets of Kabul and Parvana is a quick learner. She sets up a roadside stall and makes money by offering to read and write documents.

    Although she is in constant danger of being discovered, Parvana is determined to find out where her father was taken, and rescue him. Her first attempt fails when the prison guard refuses to accept the bribe she offers. Parvana returns home disappointed but still determined to secure Nurullah's freedom.

    Parvana also becomes the family storyteller. Her story is about a young boy named Sulayman who must travel a great distance and complete three trials in order to defeat a giant elephant who is terrorising his land.

    After Parvana narrowly escapes being discovered as a girl by a young man called Idrees who supports Taliban rule, her mother reveals she has arranged a marriage for Parvana's sister, Soraya, and that the family is moving to Mazar. Parvana begs her mother to delay their departure for one more day, so she can attempt to connect with her father.

    As war encroaches on Kabul and with all the resolve she has left, Parvana treks to the prison and, with the help of a sympathetic guard called Razaq, works to free her father once and for all.

    Curriculum Links

    The Breadwinner is suitable for students in Years 6–10.

    In Years 6–10, The Breadwinner is a relevant resource for meeting learning outcomes in:

    • English
    • Geography
    • History
    • Photographic and Digital Media The

    The Breadwinner student guide:

    • invites students to share their responses to the stories told by the film;
    • asks students questions about The Breadwinner as a film text; In completing the tasks, students will have demonstrated the ability to:
    • analyse the construction of a film and comment on the ways it represents an interpretation of ideas and experiences;
    • respond to a film both personally and in detached and critical ways;
    • discuss the social, cultural and historical values embodied in a film;
    • draw on appropriate metalanguage to discuss the structures and features of a film;
    • use their own written and spoken texts to explore concepts and ideas and to clarify their own and others’ understanding.

    Teachers are advised to direct students to complete activities that are subject relevant and age appropriate.

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