In this sequel to the Newbery Honor book "Shabanu, " Shabanu, the youngest ofRahim's four wives, flees with her daughter to Rahim's old family home in thecity to escape the cruelty and jealously of his other wives.
NOTE TO TEACHERS
Reading Suzanne Fisher Staples’s books is like taking a journey to a faraway place. Shabanu and Haveli, suspenseful novels about a girl growing up in Pakistan, can be read and enjoyed on their own by students, but the books also lend themselves to cross-cultural studies and provide many opportunities for activities across the disciplines. In addition, “wannabe” writers will not only by enchanted by Staples’s sumptuous, exotic language but also can learn techniques to use in their own work. Each novel stands on its own, but after reading Shabanu, few students will be able to resist Haveli, its sequel. Even if your students are reading just one of the books, we recommend that you read through this entire guide because you will find that there are questions and activities under each title that may be used with both books.
Before Reading the Novel
Jealousy is a grand literary passion. Actor Orson Welles called it “the seasickness of emotion.” You think you’re going to die, but everyone else thinks it’s funny. What makes you jealous? Severe cases of jealousy, like Iago’s in Othello, can have disastrous results. Imagine that you are an eighteen-year-old girl, married, with a child, like Shabanu — the main character in this novel. Then think what it would be like if your husband (forty-two years older than you) had three other wives and many other children - each with their own private grudge against you and your child.
Now imagine that you are a man in Shabanu’s world. What would be the advantages and disadvantages of living in a society where men could take as many wives as they wish? As good as it might be for the ego to have four women who love you, imagine handling the problems jealousy motivates.
A sense of being betrayed is another powerful and devastating emotion. What is the worst case of betrayal you have experienced or heard about?
Be prepared. We are about to dive into a world dominated by intrigue, Machiavellian plots, devious schemes, and insidious conspiracies, where not only status, happiness, land, and money are at stake, but also people’s lives. If you have read Shabanu — the story of Shabanu’s life until the age of twelve — you will already be aware of Nazir Muhammad, the evil man who will play a villainous role in this book. However, it is not necessary to know the other story, because Staples summarizes what has gone before in a series of flashbacks.
In addition to jealousy and betrayal, this story is also about contrasts among individuals, groups, lifestyles, and values. In your journal, keep a running list of as many contrasts as you find, such as young and old or rich and poor.
Check the glossary. What does haveli mean? Predict why you think Staples might have given her novel this title.
After Reading the Novel
Questions for Discussion
1. This is obviously Shabanu’s story. What is her major goal? A story must have conflicts — troubles and problems that hinder the main Character from getting what she wants. What problems complicate Shabanu’s desire to find a safe and secure place for her and Mumtaz? What trouble arises from jealousy? Which problems are a result of the wrong combinations — Children with the wrong fathers, marriages to the wrong people, etc.? Does Shabanu create any of her own problems? How do her age and family background contribute?
2. We see many facets of Rahim’s character. Considering his actions and decisions, especially those involving Shabanu, Mumtaz, Zabo, Ahmed, Amina, Ibne, Nazir, and the parents of the child killed by the car, defend or attack his behavior.
3. At the end of the story, Shabanu says Omar is like Rahim; he will sacrifice everything to his duty and commitment to the family. How are the two men different? Considering everything that happens to the family in this story, defend or attack the men’s custom of doing their duty rather than following their hearts.
4. The exposition is also known as the rising action. Staples is building toward the climax, or turning point, in her story. How does Omar’s return from America change the situation? Tell how you think the story might have ended differently if he had not come back. Rahim’s murder is a dramatic moment, and it too has effects. Which event would you describe as the climax or turning point of the novel? Support your answer.
5. When Zabo asks Shabanu not to tell Rahim that her wedding to Ahmed has not been consummated, Shabanu betrays her oath of loyalty to her husband for the first time. What would you have done? How might the events that followed been different if she had told him?
Activities Across the Curriculum
1. We always wish for happy endings in stories, but a good writer, writing character-driven stories, tries for credibility — the way things really happen, not the way we wish they would. In groups of four, try to develop a more satisfying ending for Shabanu, without changing her personality and character, in which she is at least with one of the people she loves — Mumtaz, Omar, Rahim, Dadi, Mama, or Zabo.
2. Even though she is only beginning to learn to read, it is as if Shabanu has read Virginia Woolf’s famous essay “A Room of One’s Own,” in her book of the same name. Read the essay and explain how Shabanu’s summer pavilion follows Woolf’s suggestions.
3. Staples’s language is so descriptive that a picture forms in your mind as you read, as if the author were giving instructions to an artist. Sketch on of the following;
●A room, the courtyard, or the summer pavilion inside the haveli (pp. 82, 25-26, 91-92, 136)
●The jewelry in the bazaar (pp. 118-19)
4. Check your notes on contrasts. In this story, Staples shows the sharp differences between the lives of rich and poor, servants and employers, men and women, young and old. Carry the contrasts a step further. Pick two of these groups, and write an essay that compares the different attitudes, expectations, values, and treatment of these groups in the Pakistani culture with the attitudes, expectations, values, and treatment of them in your own culture.
5. Compare and contrast a Pakistani wedding to one in your culture. Compare the engagement, the clothes, the pre-wedding activities, as well as the ceremony itself, in each culture.
6. Polo is called a rich man’s sport or a gentleman’s game. The British learned it in India when they ruled the country. Research the history of the sport, the rules, the clothes players wear, and the field where it is played. Conclude your report by explaining why you think the scene where Shabanu watches Omar playing is so painful for her.
7. Set up a bazaar. Ask a home economics teacher or members of you family to help prepare food like chapati, kharin, curried lentils, and other edibles from Shabanu’s region. Make jewelry, clay pots, or shawls to sell in the stalls. Invite your families and other classes.
Questions for Discussion if You Have Read Both SHABANU and HAVELI
1. Mumtaz’s Choti and Shabanu’s Mithoo died unpleasant deaths before their time. Explain how the customs of the country contribute to or cause the death of both pets.
2. In the last line of Shabanu, Shabanu says, “Rahim-sahib will reach out to me for the rest of his life and never unlock the secrets of my heart.” Considering what happens in Haveli, do you think her prediction comes true?
3. Shabanu’s last thought in Haveli is “Omar is my heart; and Mumtaz, Mumtaz is my freedom.’’ How do you interpret what she means? Does this conclusion leave you with hope or despair?
4. Recalling the life Shabanu had as a child and what Mumtaz experiences in her first five years, so you feel Mumtaz lost or gained by being sent back to live in the desert with the nomads? Which life would you prefer?
5. Omar was educated in America, where he began to think differently about women. We see him express his love for Shabanu at Zabo’s grave, but we also watch him being trained by Rahim, and we remember Dadi’s role in his daughters’ lives. Try to imagine what will happen to Omar after this story ends. Describe the man you think he will be, the kind of life he will have ten years later.
6. Although Sharma is not actually present in the majority of the scenes, she plays an important role in both stories, representing a new type of woman in the Islamic culture — she gives Shabanu a means of birth control, and she offers Zabo and Shabanu an escape from tradition. How do these things benefit or hurt these young women? Do you feel the author means for you to think of her as a sympathetic character? If so, do you think she represents the future of women in Pakistan?
7. In Shabanu (p. 219), just before Phulan’s wedding to Shabanu’s intended, her mother tells Shabanu “…you have much to learn before your strength works for you instead of against you.” If you think her prophecy comes true, trace the times when Shabanu’s strength was her weakness, what she learned, and how, in the tragic ending, her strength finally worked for her. If you disagree, disprove the foreshadowing statement.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
Thinking Like A Writer
1. A subplot is a minor story within a novel that has a direct relationship to the main plot, making the story more interesting and adding complications to the struggle. In Shabanu, Shabanu’s complex relationship with her father was a subplot. In Haveli, the role she must play with her husband adds complications. On p. 9, while watching her mother adorn herself to go to her husband, Mumtaz says she looks like “Papa’s birds.” Explain how this metaphor describes Shabanu’s relationship with Rahim.
Analyze the subplot of Selma’s story — her independence, her lack of funds, her love story, to determine how it sharpens your feelings about Zabo’s and Shabanu’s love stories.
2. Suspense is the major device for securing and maintaining the reader’s interest in a story. It may be one of two major types: the outcome is uncertain and the suspense resides in the question of who, what, or how; or the outcome is inevitable from the events that have gone before and the suspense resides in the frightened anticipation of the outcome.
The characters in Haveli are constantly involved in schemes, plots, and intrigues that create suspense. Explain the suspense in the following: Shabanu’s and Zabo’s scheme to keep money for Zabo’s escape, Shabanu’s plan to take Mumtaz to the desert, Shabanu’s assuming Zabo’s identity. Point to other incidents.
3. To describe the exotic elements of her story, Staples has used rich, colorful, symbolic, and figurative language. But, not everything in the story is foreign. For example, the kinds of love between parents and children, men and women, and children and their animals are universal emotions and, therefore, perhaps more difficult to express in a fresh an interesting way. Analyze the way Staples allows the reader to experience Shabanu’s growing awareness of her love for Omar without his ever doing more than touching her hand.
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Booklist Editors' Choice
Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Children's Book Award
Prepared by Lou Willett Stanek, Ph.D.