Synopses & Reviews
The marvelous chain of events about which I will tell you began one evening as I sat in the courtyard with my father, playing chess.
It was spring. The scent of jasmine hung thick in the air. As we moved first one piece and then another, the pale light died away. The moon had not yet risen. The wooden shutters on the windows of our little house of baked bricks had been removed, and the light from the oil lamps inside made bright squares on the ground. But our board was too far from the windows to catch the light, and in time it grew too dark to see the chessmen.
With his hand, my father swept the pieces aside. "That's enough of that," he said. "O my daughter, I declare you the winner."
"But Father," I assured him, I wasn't even close to putting your king in check."
My father laughed. "Six moves more, seven moves more, what difference does it make? Sooner or later you would have checked my king, and mated my king, just as you always do. It was a dark day for me when I taught you this foolish game. Your mother scolded me. She said your time would be better spent with your needle or your loom than in learning men's amusements." Hesighed, a vast mock sigh. "Ah me. I should have listened to your mother."
"O my father," I murmured, "I'm glad you didn't." I knew he was glad too. He loved to play chess; it was a precious distraction from his daily struggle to support our crowded household. Since he had no sons, he had been forced to teach the game to one of his daughters, if he was to play it at all, for he had neither the time nor the money to gamble with other men in the shops of the suqs. I, Buran, was the one he had chosen. Perhaps he chose me because I was so clumsy at all the tasks my mother set me around the house that he felt it was I she could best spare. Or perhaps he chose me because I was the one who wanted with all my heart to learn.
"Go indoors," my father ordered. "Tell your mother to prepare a drink of yogurt. Your uncle and some of his sons have come to call on me," he added with a sigh. It was a real sigh this time.
Our house was small. It was necessary for my father to detain my uncle and cousins in our courtyard while my mother prepared the drink and laid out a few sweetmeats. "A paltry display," she complained, "but it's the best I can do. It's all we have." I knew that was true. "Your uncle is unbelievably thoughtless to call on his brother here at home," my mother continued crossly. "He knows we can'tafford to entertain him properly. Why didn't he go to see your father in the shop, the way he usually does?"
When the food was laid out, she, my sisters, and I withdrew to the other room. My sisters were soon busy with their sewing and their embroidering, their spinning and their gossiping, though what they found to talk about so endlessly when they went nowhere and saw no one was beyond my comprehension. Still, I envied them, for they never seemed to be afflicted with the fits of melancholy that overcame me when I wondered what would become of them, what would become of me, what would become of all of us. "Allah will provide," they always said. "Allah will provide." And then they would go on with their ceaseless stitching, their endless chatter. They were content to be just what they were. There were times when I longed to jump right out of my skin and into someone else's, like: my cousin Hassan's, or my cousin Ali's. It was they who had conic to call on my father, along with my: uncle.
"Your visit does honor to my poor home," I heard my father intone politely as be escorted his brother and his nephews out of the courtyard, through the arched hall or iwan, and into the main room of thehouse.
"Well, there's a reason for it, O father of girls,"
In an ancient Arab nation, one woman dares to be different.Buran cannot -- Buran will not-sit quietly at home and wait to be married to the man her father chooses. Determined to use her skills and earn a fortune, she instead disguises herself as a boy and travels by camel caravan to a distant city. There, she maintains her masculine disguise and establishes a successful business. The city's crown prince comes often to her shop, and soon Buran finds herself falling in love. But if she reveals to Mahmud that she is a woman, she will lose everything she has worked for.
In an ancient Arabian city dwell two brothers. One has seven sons and is considered wealthy and blessed. The other has seven daughters and is cursed and called forsaken by God. Determined to earn a fortune for her family, Buran, his fourth daughter, disguises herself as a boy and travels to a distant city. An ALA Notable Book and Booklist Best Book of the Year.
About the Author
Barbara Cohen authored The Carp in the Bathtub, a Passover story that critics dubbed a modern classic. She's also the author of Yussel's Prayer: A Yom Kippur Story, awarded the 1983 Association of Jewish Librarians Book Award and the 1983 National Jewish Book Award for picture books. Highly regarded for her novels as well, which include Thank You, Jackie Robinson and King of the Seventh Grade, and recipient of the 1983 National Jewish Book Award for children's fiction, Barbara Cohen received the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award presented by the Association of Jewish Librarians. She died in 1992.