Mrs Abdul and the officer stopped in front of me and I stood in respect. She had been angry with me constantly, regularly beat me, but she had never spat words at me like she did then, as if I was a bazaar dog with rabies.
‘This is the girl, officer, who blasphemed the Holy Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him.’
Rabi gave a cry. I couldn’t say a word; I was too shocked.
Aster was named after a girl who had to fight against the persecution of her minority faith. Aster, too, belongs to a to a minority. She is a Christian growing up in Pakistan. When she is given the opportunity for a high school education she plans to study hard to make a difference for herself and for her grieving parents. But not everybody at the school is welcoming, and one teacher dislikes her intensely – because of her faith. Aster tries to keep her head low and study hard to please the teacher, but a mistake in an exam has devastating consequences, when she is accused of blashpemy. Marched out of school by police and thrown in prison, Aster’s predicament escalates rapidly.
The Truth About Peacock Blue is a gripping tale of life for one girl in Pakistan, giving an insight into the predicaments of minority faith groups and indviduals, as well as the rights of women. In prison, Aster meets other women who have been wrongly accused and are harshly treated, left in limbo for lengthy periods of time. Communication with her Australian-based cousin, who runs a blog and starts a petition, allows other perspectives, incuding those of commenters on Maryam’s blog.
Aster’s case is fictional, but mention is made of real life cases including those of Asia Bibi and Malala. As well as being an absorbing story, The Truth About Peacock Blue will also aid in understanding such situations, which can seem far removed from contemporary Australian life.
An important look at social justice and freedom.
The Truth About Peacock Blue, by Rosanne Hawke
Allen & Unwin, 2015