Book Review: “Daughter of Nomads: The Tales of Jahani” by Roseanne Hawke (2016), University of Queensland Press
In all honesty, I couldn’t wait to crack the spine on this one. When a book arrives on my doorstep with the name Roseanne Hawke attached to it, I just know that I am about to start what is guaranteed to be an amazing journey. Daughter of Nomads didn’t fail to disappoint. In fact, it lived up to every whisper of a promise hinted at in the rich teal cover.
Australian readers are no doubt very familiar with Hawke’s work. I first encountered her writing as a beginning teacher working in Port Augusta when I was ‘told’ to teach her contemporary novel The Keeper to my energetic group of year 8 students. The students were captivated and so began my first introduction to a writer whose work is as prolific as it is diverse. More recently I had the opportunity to read and review the immensely absorbing and gut wrenching story of Aster, a Christian Pakistani girl in her book The Truth About Peacock Blue (you can find my review for that title here). Daughter of Nomads, the first book in the series The Tales of Jahani, is also set in the world of the middle-east. However, Hawke explores this setting as it might have been in the summer of 1662, and adds a sprinkling of magic for good measure that is certainly reminiscent of the tales of Scheherazade.
Fourteen year-old Jahani lives with her mother in the village of Sherwan. Unfortunately, the violent world of tyrants and war lords is always close, with conflict constantly simmering and threatening to shatter the peace. One day, while shopping in the bazaar Jahani and her friend are attacked. With the help of Azhar, Jahani escapes certain death and so begins an adventure to discover the truth about her family and her real identity.
Daughter of Nomads will engage readers from in the middle years of secondary school. It will especially hold appeal with students that have an interest in religion and history and might be a useful text to explore middle-eastern cultures. While I personally would not use this as a shared text within my coeducational classroom, the accessibility of the language, make it a good choice for extending students into texts that are more culturally diverse. That said, the story has the potential to work really well with single sex female classes, providing a unique Asian perspective with historical connections that could easily complement the Year 8 HaSS National Curriculum focusing on the Mediaeval Period.
Daughter of Nomads was a captivating read that I found utterly immersive. I can’t wait for the release of the second book in the series The Leopard Princess.