Although many coming-of-age novels have been written about the struggle between the individual and society from the perspective of Western society, Shabanu is unique in its location and vivid descriptions of the nomadic life in the Pakistani desert.
This novel, the first for Suzanne Fisher Staples, was named a Newbery Honor Book. Staples once lived in Pakistan and became involved with the nomads of the Cholistan desert during her years as a United Press International (UPI) correspondent. Deeply impressed and inspired by the courage and generosity of these desert nomads, she resolved to dispel some of the misconceptions Westerners have about Islamic societies. Thus, Staples’ motivation in writing this novel was to reveal the common life and thus the universal humanness of these desert-dwelling Muslims. Through the intelligent and poetic voice of Shabanu, who describes her life and austere desert existence, she succeeds in doing so. The story of this resilient, independent, free-spirited young woman will stay with the reader for a long time. After the novel’s publication, Staples promised a sequel, and all who read this book will be eager to hear what happens next to this plucky heroine so different in geographical setting but so like Western teenagers in her heart.