Reviews

Shabanu Daughter of the Wind

shabanuPublishers Weekly (starred review)
A ”thorny, poignant coming-of-age” novel. Staples’s depiction of desert life is breathtaking. She employs vivid, lyrical metaphors to create the potency of the family’s joys and struggles.”

The New York Times Book ReviewNovember 12, 1989
“It is a pleasure to read a book that explores a way of life profoundly different from our own, and that does so with such sensitivity, admiration and verisimilitude. Ms. Staples . . . has surely accomplished a small miracle in the unfolding of her touching and powerful story. She has managed to present to her readers an engaging and convincing portrait of an adolescent girl who is alternately bewildered and exhilarated by her changing mind and body; at the same time, the author offers rich and provocative insights into a culture so distanced from rock videos and designer jeans as to seem extra-planetary. I hope her readers will gain from it a renewed sense of self and a deep respect for what is other.”

-Maurya Simon

Haveli

haveliPublishers Weekly – July 19, 1993 (starred review)
Readers . . .will be engrossed by Haveli’s heart-pounding adventure and significant social issues. Hunger for land, arranged marriage and the venerable tradition of shutr keena (literally, “camel vengeance”: the stern law of death for dishonor) are among the potent forces that drive this stirring sequel to Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind. Staples’s portrayal of Pakistan is remarkably even-handed: she acknowledges the society’s inequities while celebrating its beauty and warmth. The sights, sounds and even some of the smells of the Pakistani landscape are described in eloquent, unpretentious language.

Kirkus Reviews July 1, 1993 (starred review)
“The betrayals, violence, and richly sustaining loyalties (Staples) invokes in the gripping final events have a convincing inexorability tempered with hope at the tantalizingly open conclusion. A sequel isn’t promised, but admirers of the intelligent and courageous Shabanu will thirst for more.”

Booklist June 1, 1993 (starred review)
“Staples brews a potent mix here: the issue of a woman’s role in a traditional society, page-turning intrigue, tough women characters, and a fluidity of writing that blends it all together. Staples has some very strong things to say about the lack of power some women have over their own lives, but the reader never hears preaching. Rather, as in the best stories, the message comes through the characters, their anguish and their triumphs.”

– Ilene Cooper

Shiva’s Fire

shivas-firePublishers Weekly(starred review)
“Poetically and suspensefully expressing the sorrows and joys of the spiritual life as well as the life of the artist, this is a spellbinder.”

Compass
“An exotic, magical story about the spark of possibility in each of us. . . The story explores how a young girl deals with the many natural and supernatural mysteries of life and the gift of magic in her feet.”

Linda Pack Butler

Chinaberry
“Telling the plot is never enough when describing a book by Staples. The meat of her books lies in her willingness to ask hard questions and seek the truth when truth may be elusive. Her characters are filled with dignity and show great courage again and again, traits (we) can never have modeled enough. In this instant gratification world of ours, (we) need to see again and again how living an honorable life is work we do each day through every action we take. (We) need to see the importance of listening to (our) hearts even thought that might not be the easiest way to live. Shiva’s Fire does all this and much more in a delightfully engaging manner.”

Dangerous Skies

dangerous-skiesPublishers Weekly (starred review)
“This masterfully crafted story boldly conveys uncomfortable truths about society while expressing the innocence of children.”

School Library Journal
“Interesting as a look at a fascinating subculture in a remarkably defined place.”
-Cindy Darling Codell

The Green Dog

the-green-dogHorn Book MagazineJuly 2003
“Staples recalls every sensorial and emotional detail of her summer as an almost-fifth grader, right down to the elastic poking out of her worn-out bathing swimsuit. It is the summer a dog adopts her family, a dog who looks just like the one she’s always imagined owning. Her father is especially dubious about “Jeff,” partly because he has already told her she can’t have a dog, and partly because of her brother’s allergies, but Suzanne is determined to keep him. Unfortunately, although Jeff provides great companionship for Suzanne, he tends to run off and cause trouble with the neighbors. As each incident occurs, Suzanne fears more that her beloved dog is using up all of his chances, and her father warns: “You’d better keep that dog tied up or locked in the basement . . . One more of his tricks and he’ll be gone.” There are occasional funny moments, like the way Jeff becomes the title’s “Green Dog,” but overall the tone is anxious and sad. The adult Suzanne remembers the child Suzanne’s loneliness and pain with visceral intensity and creates here a memoir not of a dog but of the girl who loves and loses him.”

Kirkus Reviews
“This mostly true story is written with style, humor, and empathy. In the final scene, Dr. Speicher tells Mrs. Fisher that Suzanne “has an active imagination, and that might turn out to be a good thing someday,” and that has been Staples gift to the world of children’s literature.”

BooklistOctober 1, 2003
“Staples’ beautiful words and images capture summer’s delicious freedom, and readers will easily connect with daydreaming, independent Suzanne, who notices everything, fears growing up, and loves her pet with a pure fierceness that her parents will never understand.

-Gillian Engbert

Publishers Weekly July 28, 2003
“ . . . effectively evokes the long, lazy days of summer on a lake in northeastern Pennsylvania. The author creates a timeless atmosphere by remaining focused on the narrator’s growing pains and avoiding details that would date the tale. Readers will detect subtle changes in Suzanne as Jeff draws her out of her loner’s shell and forces her to deal with the here and now.

Under the Persimmon Tree

under-the-persimmon-treeEndorsed by Amnesty International as a contribution to a better understanding of human rights.

Publishers Weekly August, 2005 (starred review)
“Having already shown a profound understanding of Middle-Eastern culture in books such as Shabanu and Shiva’s Fire, Staples offers readers a new level of insight in this timely portrayal of Afghanistan in the months following September 11. The author fills in tangible details of day-to-day life in a strife-ridden land. While avoiding political commentary, Staples powerfully and honestly expresses the plight of a civilization caught between terrorists and American bombs.

Kirkus Reviews
“Staples brings beautiful, war-torn Afghanistan closer in this affecting, eye-opening novel.”

Armchair Interviews
“I found Under the Persimmon Tree to be an excellent cultural read. It will open your eyes to a way of life that must be experienced to understand.”

-Diane A. BrownFull Review

The Sacramento Bee
“Staples makes readers care about the two Muslim (characters). Their dramatic personal stories hinge on their religion and culture. Staples also paints the land with rich details of the mountains and landscape. Readers can almost feel the dust on their skin, and they’ll surely wince at the Talibarn’s harsh rule. Long after the story closes – with no simple solutions – readers will keep Najmah in mind and wonder what becomes of her.”

-Judy Green

BookslutDecember 7, 2005
“Staples has written a very honest portrayal of a young girl whose family is torn apart by the recent Afghan war. Her struggle to find a place for herself, and her refusal to let go of what she loves about her homeland, makes this the best sort of book.”

The House of Djinn

house-of-djinnPublishers Weekly (starred review)
“Atmospheric and suspenseful . . .Western and Islamic ways clash, yet the author so thoroughly immerses readers in the setting that few will want to judge. Like most of Staples’s fiction, this work significantly enlarges the reader’s understanding of a complex society”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Eloquently written…Staples skillfully draws readers into the complicated web of relationships in the fictional Amirzai family in this fascinating tale of the conflict between tribal tradition and modernization in contemporary Pakistan.”

Booklist
“Readers will ponder the questions about responsibility and freedom Staples raises in the intriguing marriage drama.”

New Jersey State Library Listserve (NJYAC.com)August 1, 2008
“In this strong sequel to Staples’ Shabanu and Haveli, Mumtaz, Shabanu’s 15-year-old daughter has been living with relatives for 10 years, believing her mother to be dead. She lives for summers, when her cousin and best friend Jameel comes from California. . . Staples writes with a keen eye and ear towards modern upper-class Pakistani life and the tensions between tribal traditions and modern life.”

The Sacramento Bee
“Through her stories, Staples presents the uneasy mixture of ancient tribal traditions and modern social and governmental principles. Her adult characters have roots in the old tribal ways, but their young people live in a modern world and like its freedoms. Staples’ story . . . immerses readers in the local life with descriptions of crowded streets, rich foods, garden workers in lungis, and shopping in a burqua. . . Staples’ smooth pacing keeps the suspense and tender emotions trembling throughout Shabanu’s ordeal. . .”

-Judy Green

Press

Publishers Weekly

“Under Eastern Skies” (February 14, 2000) by Linda Brill Comerford

“She has no trouble finding her way around the Cholistan desert, but she can’t figure out the streets of Harrisburg, Pa.,” Suzanne Fisher Staples murmurs, poking fun at herself. There is a twinkle in her eye and a hint of a smile on her face, so it’s obvious that she is not too upset about spending most of the evening lost in Pennsylvania’s capital city, where she agreed to be interviewed by PW.

The writer, who has traveled and lived all over the world, now resides in Chattanooga, Tenn., where her husband works for an architectural supply company. Once every six weeks, however, she returns to her home state of Pennsylvania to visit her 81-year-old parents at their retirement community in Elizabethtown, about 20 minutes southeast of the capital. Being temporarily disoriented in a new place (and later discovering that her parents’ car, which she had driven into the city, was locked up inside a parking garage) does not ruffle the worldly writer. Tall, slender and good-natured, she meets opportunities to explore new territory with the same sense of adventure that she conveys in her YA novels, which range over more exotic ground than Harrisburg.

Three out of Staples’s four books are set in southern Asia, where she was assigned to work as a UPI correspondent for 13 years in the 1970s and ’80s. Her latest work, Shiva’s Fire (FSG/Foster), due out in April, tells the story of a mystical Indian child, Parvati, whose birth coincides with the worst tornado her village has ever endured. Extremely talented as a dancer, and infinitely wise, Parvati follows her “dharma,” or “true destiny,” by leaving her beloved family to attend a famous dance school.

Read the full article

Five Owls

“Understanding Cultures, Fostering Peace” – by Whitney Stuart

“Staples’ true talent is in showing her readers cultural richness in its many forms. She takes worlds, so unknown to most Americans, and unpeels them, layer by layer, to display their color, shape, and pulse.”

The ALAN Review

“Different is Just Different”– by Suzanne Fisher Staples

“Poverty does not define the lives of poor people. Their lives have as much value as ours do. There is more to Islam than repression. All of us have in common the entire range of emotion and experience: love — passionate love of men and women and tender love of parents and children, girl children included; humor — they love to see a bully brought down, an unkind deed backfire.

During my time in Pakistan, I learned something with my heart that my head already knew: “different” does not mean “better” or “worse” — it just means “different.”

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“What Johnny Can’t Read: Censorship in American Libraries”by Suzanne Fisher Staples

“Parents’ attempts to protect their children from books that offend are misguided. For one thing, librarians say the primary effect of keeping kids from reading a book is that they want to read it above all others. Children are tough and discriminating. They hear language far worse than Gilly Hopkins’ in the halls at school. Kids have eyes finely tuned for the subtle and are more capable of grasping complexity than most adults give them credit for. I read Black Beauty before I was twelve and learned a lot about compassion from it. I thought the Hardy Boys were sexist before I knew the word. And I knew Rudyard Kipling for a racist without having to be told by a well-meaning adult.
Like Katherine Paterson’s fifth-grade fan, it was miracles I was after, the momentary magic of transcendence that fired my soul. Each book has its own gifts to offer, but the freedom to choose which to read teaches some of life’s most important lessons — trusting yourself, knowing what you believe in, tolerance — all of which are more difficult to learn once you get beyond childhood.”

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The Hornbook Magazine

“Tolerance is Not Enough” – by Suzanne Fisher Staples

“From hours of sipping tea around fires in camps all over rural Pakistan and Afghanistan, I have also learned that relatively few Muslims are fundamentalists. They abhor terrorism and are more often victims of it than we are. Muslim terrorists are not regarded as religious martyrs but as fanatics who use religion to justify political acts.

The Soviet-Afghan war was of great strategic importance to the United States. At stake: Soviet access to the major shipping lanes from the Gulf of Arabia, the most important conduit for Middle Eastern oil to the West. And yet it was difficult to get news of it into American newspapers. Most of our stories were cut to one- or two-inch columns for the “World News in Brief” sections. Our editors told us that Americans weren’t interested because they had difficulty seeing the relevance of such a remote and strange country.

I began to realize that news reports seldom let Americans see what people from cultures very different from ours are really like. News reports about battles and politics and economics rarely show individual faces — and when people remain faceless, it’s easy not to care what happens to them.

I began to think then of story as a way of providing insight into the lives of people from other cultures, because story is based on the stuff of the human heart. Story shows what we have in common, not what separates us. That was when I decided I wanted to write fiction.

Stories can show us that the people of Afghanistan are more like us than not; that they are not equipment and targets, but people — most of them decent and moderate — just like us. They are afraid when they hear gunfire outside their houses in the middle of the night, just as you and I would be.”