spotlight on…women, faith, and the Sahara

Deep in the Sahara, where men wear billowing white boubous and dates grow sticky and sweet…

deep in the sahara illustration2 hoda hadadi from jacketflap

where women, veiled head to toe, bear water pots serenely on their heads…

deep in the sahara illustration hoda hadadi from blaine dot org

lives Lalla.

deep in the sahara illustration3 hoda hadadi from slj dot com

Lalla gazes with admiration and longing at the beautiful, flowing malafas worn by all the women. She wants  one, too. But her mother waits until Lalla proves she understands the reason for a malafa, before wrapping her in one, “as blue as the Sahara sky.”

deep in the sahara cover imageThere aren’t many picture books that address matters of faith in an engaging manner. That’s one of the reasons that Deep in the Sahara stands out. It takes a peaceful look at the Muslim practice of wearing a veil. That’s  a complex issue, one that Muslim women disagree on amongst themselves, but this gorgeous book presents a view less understood by Westerners: the women in this Mauritanian village want to be veiled. For them, it is not a sign of repression. 

Kelly Cunnane’s story is told lightly, poetically, and beautifully, from a little girl’s uncomplicated perspective. She offers us this wonderful insight into a different way of life. Hoda Hadadi is an Iranian artist whose gorgeous collages make these pages pop. Wow! She has won numerous international awards for her illustration work, but this is the first of her work published in the U.S. and we have truly been missing out. Exquisite colors and fabric textures glow with desert heat and beauty. 

An Author’s Note tells how Cunnane came to write the story and a tiny bit more about Islam.

Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane and Hoda Hadadi
published in 2013 by Schwartz & Wade Books