Fadi never imagined he’d start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles away from home in Kabul.  But, here he was, half a world apart from his missing six year old sister who’d been lost because of him, as they'd fled Afghanistan. Adjusting to life in the United States isn’t easy for Fadi’s family and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war torn Afghanistan seem slim -- impossible. Desperate, Fadi tries every hare-brained scheme he can think of to find her. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister.  But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Based in part on Ms. Senzai’s husband’s experience fleeing Soviet controlled Afghanistan in 1979, Shooting Kabul is a powerful story of hope, love, and perseverance.

Awards & Recognition

  • NPR's Backseat Book Club February 2012 Pick
  • Massachusetts Children's Book Award Nominee 2012-2013
  • South Carolina Association of School Librarians Junior Book Award Nominee 2012-2013
  • Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book List Award Nominee 2013
  • Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee 2013
  • 2010 Asian/Pacific American Award (APALA) for Young Adult Literature
  • 2010 Middle East Book Award (MEOC) for Youth Literature
  • CBC/NCSS Notable Children's Book in Social Studies
  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, 2011 edition
  • Northern California Children’s Book of the Year Nomination
  • International Reading Association’s Teachers Choice Award 2011
  • Pennsylvania School Librarian’s Association’s YA Top 40 2011
  • 100 Magnificent Children's Books of 2010 Fuse #8 Production
  • Cybil Award for Middle Grade Nomination 2010


"This hard-hitting, emotionally nuanced first novel views the experiences of a family of Afghan refugees through the lens of 11-year-old Fadi. Senzai portrays the high cost of escape as not just economic but human, through the shattering loss of Fadi's six-year-old sister, who is left behind. Senzai skillfully focuses Fadi's guilt against the backdrop of this grief and his adjustments to life in Fremont, California's Little Kabul (during 9/11); as Fadi discovers a photography club and contest that might earn him tickets to India, he fantasizes about rescuing his sister. Though cultural, religious, and political pressures persist, the satisfying surprise ending offers the family hope and redemption."

- Publishers Weekly

"Debut novelist Senzai crafts a wrenching tale, based on her husband’s Soviet-era experience, putting a human face on the war in Afghanistan… it’s an ambitious story with much to offer: a likable protagonist in Fadi, an original and engaging plot and a lens through which readers will learn much about the current conflict."

- Kirkus

"This well-constructed novel offers young readers insight into Afghan culture.  Inspired by true events and family history, this is a thoughtful debut novel to read and discuss."

- San Jose Mercury News

"Ripped from the headlines of recent history, Senzai tells Fadi's story with a simple, sure touch. She has a warm, engaging style that belies the subject matter. In the end, along with a very clever and satisfying climax, Fadi will gain some perspective, as will the reader - about family, duty and how you can pick up the shattered fragments of a lost world."

- San Francisco Chronicle

"Working from her husband's experience of leaving Soviet-dominiated Aghanistan, N.H. Senzai lays in carefully what is so tense about the lives of families leaving repression, as well as what is so ordinary... Fadi's concerns are shared with his wordwide peers."

- Chicago Tribune

"This is a worthwhile book about the immigrant experience in general, and Afghani culture specifically. Fadi is a likable hero who learns from his mistakes, and whose talent allows him to make a unique contribution towards finding his sister."

- School Library Journal

"Beginning in the months before 9/11, this sensitive, timely debut follows an Afghan family's emigration to San Francisco. Senzai educates readers about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Afghan cultural diversity, and the Qur'an's fundamental messages of peace. She writes with powerful, realistic detail about Fadi's family's experiences, particularly the prejudice Fadi finds at school. A satisfying contrivance brings this illuminating docu-novel to a joyful conclusion, and young readers may well want to move on to the appended resources to learn more."

- Booklist

"Senzai tells an exciting and heartwarming story that will keep many young people reading until the end."

- Elan Magazine

"Senzai weaves together a tale that shimmers darkly at first and lightens toward the end, giving her readers the opportunity to delve into Afghani culture, the Taliban, war, immigrant issues, life after 9/11, and schoolyard bullying. The best fiction transforms actual events into a reality that has more meaning than that those imagined from reported facts. At a time when Afghanistan is constantly making news, Shooting Kabul fills the void of ignorance about the country and its culture. Senzai’s novel will surely get the attention it deserves from children and critics, and perhaps even snatch honors and awards."

- India Currents

"Senzai tells a touching story, weaving themes of namus (the Pukhtunwali code of honor and shame), fate, and oppression to keep the plot moving Her writing is beautiful - never forced or dry - Despite being aimed at younger audiences, this book is a wonderful read for all ages."

- Illume Magazine

"In N.H. Senzai's debut novel, worlds collide and a little sister is lost.  Can her big brother find her from half a world away?  At the same time, how can he find himself and restore his honor in a land that is both foreign and home?  Turn the pages.  Find out." 

- Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath, a 2009 Newbery Honor book

“Senzai has brought a whole new world to life for young readers. It is a world they won't soon forget.”   

- Reza Aslan, author of No god but God

“The hero of SHOOTING KABUL starts life in the United States as a foreigner, but by the end of the book, young readers will be cheering for Fadi as a good friend.”

- Mitali Perkins, author of Secret Keeper

"Senzai has captured a moment in recent history with enormous grace, skill and emotion. A powerful read."  

- Ahmed Rashid, New York Times Bestselling author of Taliban

"This is a beautiful book, a 21st American story on the universal themes of coming of age and carving one's place in the world.  Buy a copy for all the kids you know, and then buy an extra one for their parents." 

- Eboo Patel, Founder and Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core, author, Acts of Faith

"SHOOTING KABUL is a timely book that captures the spirit, courage, and persistence of the Afghan people. There are few topics that are more timely than Afghanistan and refugees, and this book rings true even in the smallest details."

- Steve McCurry, Award Winning Photojournalist, captured the famous image of "The Afghan Girl" for  National Geographic Magazine

"Senazi's tender and engaging story about a loving Afghan immigrant family is suberbly written. Partly inspired by true events, it warms the heart." 

- Dr. Jack G. Shaheen, Internationally acclaimed author and media critic

"Like all good novels, Senzai's work tells many stories. It is a work that deals with Islam, war, survival, migration, honor, loss, hope, despair, tragedy and triumph. However, Senzai's brilliance as a writer lies in the fact her work is written for the young reader, and for that audience it educates as it enthralls. Hers is a work I recommend to serious readers, young and old, Muslims and members of other communities." 

- Imam Zaid Shakir, One of the nations leading Islamic Scholars, interfaith leader, lecturer at Zaytuna Institute

"Afghanistan gets talked about a lot and kids might have a rather muddy idea of what has gone on "over there" … Shooting Kabul does a good job of shedding some light on these recent events without sounding like a textbook and gives middle-grade readers a valuable glimpse through the eyes of an immigrant family. This is an impressive debut and I'll be looking for more from Ms. Senzai." 

- Abby the Librarian

"This book broke my heart and then taught me about hope. As a teacher it is a book I would use in my classrooms to help students understand not only the Muslim faith and the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan but also to look at about we treat each other.  I think it has some great lessons they could learn from."

- Outrageously Wonderful Literature From the Middle Grades

"Senzai is to be complimented for her knowledge of Afghanistan, the challenges of families struggling to make ends meet, the emotions of middle school boys, and a good understanding of photography. This book is a good option for “core” classes where middle school students should read a novel on their own."   

- Sunburst Magazine, California Council for Social Studies