Mahtab's Story, by Libby Gleeson

Mahtab was empty. She felt hungry…for water, for her father, for her grandmother, her aunts and uncles, the trees in the back yard, the cabinet on the wall, the silver and glass objects so lovingly collected, for her mountains, the jagged peaks that cut the sky.
Her father was dead. She was sure of it. She was just a speck of dirt on the floor, drifting through the gap between the boards, falling to the ground.

Twelve year old Mahtab and her family flee Afghanistan, determined to travel to Australia and start a new life. But Mahtab discovers that the journey is not an easy one. If they want to be accepted into Australia as refuges, first they have to get there – a harsh journey, months in hiding, and a perilous sea voyage. Then, in Australia, there is the process of applying for residency and proving the family’s refugee status.

This is the story of one family’s journey towards a new life in Australia, but it also the story of so many families who have fled violence and oppression in their quest to live the sort of life which most Australians take for granted. Seeing the story through the eyes of a twelve year old protagonist will make the story very real for young readers, who will be both intrigued and challenged by Mahtab’s ordeal.

Beautifully, absorbingly told, this is an important story which needs to be read and discussed by children and adults alike.

Mahtab’s Story, by Libby Gleeson
Allen & Unwin, 2008

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