Enduring Freedom by Jawad Arash and Trent Reedy is a fictionalized retelling of life for two young men, Joe in America and the Baheer in Afghanistan. Their paths cross when Joe is forced to put his college plans on hold when his Army National Guard unit is called up and deployed to Farah, the new home of Baheer’s family who fled there with hopes of avoiding the crossfire between the Taliban and Americans after 9/11. Ignorance abounds in their understanding and perception of each other’s cultures and motivations but as they begin to see each other as individuals they realize that we all have more in common then we think.
Arash and Reedy have a well written and profound piece in Enduring Freedom that speaks to teens and young adults. Exploring all the questions and uncertainties that come from Joe and Baheer’s different backgrounds and experiences, young readers will be challenged to think about their own perceptions of people who are vastly different then themselves. Enduring Freedom also helps Americans to see Afghanistan in a way that the news media is not likely to show; Afghans, like all people, are concerned with family and a better life for themselves. They are also unique individuals with a fascinating culture that is grounded in faith and morals, much like most Americans. While their time together was marked with conflict and tragedy, Joe and Baheer’s enduring friendship is an encouragement to take chances and look for the good in others, even the most trying of circumstances.
Enduring Freedom is written in a very easy to read manner, sharing many details about the everyday experiences of Joe and Baheer. A younger reader may find this fascinating yet I had trouble staying engaged with much of the story because of it, even though the main plot was captivating. I also struggled with what I felt was an overall negative portrayal of soldiers and serving, while acknowledging there are definitely “issues” that come with the uniform. I know the military is a diverse group and each serviceman has their own experience, yet my family members and friends who are currently serving still count it as an honor and privilege to serve. Even with this, I still believe that Enduring Freedom would make a great family read and platform for insightful discussion on the value of each individual and the importance of continually being open to learning about new people and issues.