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Saving Kabul Corner

From Afghanistan to America, family matters most in this companion to Shooting Kabul, which Kirkus Reviews called “an ambitious story with much to offer.”

A rough and tumble tomboy, twelve-year-old Ariana couldn’t be more different from her cousin Laila, who just arrived from Afghanistan with her family. Laila is a proper, ladylike Afghan girl, one who can cook, sew, sing, and who is well versed in Pukhtun culture and manners. Arianna hates her. Laila not only invades Ariana’s bedroom in their cramped Fremont townhouse, but she also becomes close with Mariam Nurzai, Ariana’s best friend. Then a rival Afghan grocery store opens near Ariana’s family store, reigniting a decades-old feud tracing back to Afghanistan. The cousins, Mariam, and their newfound frenemie, Waleed Ghilzai, must ban together to help the families find a lasting peace before it destroys both businesses and everything their parents have worked for.

Awards & Recognition

  • Edgar Allen Poe Award Finalist
  • Kansas State Reading Circle Middle Grade List
  • South Carolina Association of School Librarians Junior Book Award Nominee 205-2016
  • Seattle Global Reading Challenge Pick
  • Missouri Association of School Librarians Readers Award Nominee
  • Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year Selection Title
  • Junior Library Guild Selection

“The arrival of a rival Afghani food market at the same California shopping plaza as the Shinwari family’s already established store brings with it the threat of an awakened family feud. Eleven-year-old Ariana Shinwari feels klutzy and inadequate next to her almost-12-year-old perfect cousin, Laila, who has moved in with Ariana’s family after fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan, leaving her father, a translator for the American Army, behind. And now it looks like Ariana’s best friend, Mariam, who also fled Afghanistan with her family, has all of her classes with Laila. But when strange things start to happen at both Kabul Corner and the upstart Pamir Market, schoolgirl conflicts give way to collaboration among Ariana, Laila, Mariam and Wali, the son of the new store’s owner. Senzai successfully weaves the dynamics of Afghan culture, history and political wranglings into a classically American mystery story, unraveling who and what are really at the heart of the conflict between the two Afghani grocery stores. Readers will appreciate that young people solve all of the questions at hand and ultimately bring the two families together. An engaging mystery—that it’s about Afghani families struggling and surviving in America is a plus.”

- Kirkus

“In a companion to 2010’s Shooting Kabul that stands solidly on its own, Senzai explores the lives of Afghan immigrants in California. Eleven-year-old Ariana’s family runs Kabul Corner, an Afghan grocery store in Freemont; the arrival of another Afghan grocery to their strip mall threatens their livelihood. Believably chaotic family dynamics heighten the tension in a crowded home filled with cousins and grandparents. Ariana is strong-willed and loyal, and her longings for a new home and a room of her own, along with her jealousy of her cousin Laila (newly arrived from Afghanistan), are relatable. As the rivalry between the stores escalates (with dangerous consequences), Ariana and her friends involve a classmate from the other store’s family to investigate the mystery. Readers who wondered what happened to Mariam, who was separated from her family in Afghanistan in Shooting Kabul, will be gratified to learn the answer in this empowering mystery. Senzai skillfully contextualizes the details of Afghan American life and the violence in Afghanistan that hangs over everyone.”

- Publishers Weekly

“Afghan American Ariana, her recent-refugee cousin Laila, and her best friend Mariam (from Shooting Kabul) investigate acts of sabotage and vandalism on both Ariana’s family’s grocery store and on a new competing store opened by a rival family. The characters’ deep love for their culture, described in rich, respectful detail by Senzai, is a distinguishing feature of the well-paced California-set mystery.”

- Horn Book

“This lively mystery provides an unusual glimpse into a large, caring Afghan family that is working hard to establish a successful business. The story’s backdrop encompasses local elections and the striking diversity of their community.”

- The Florida Times Union