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HasinaWhat people are saying about Hasina


'Hasina tells the story of the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Hasina. It is an engaging, nail-biting novel that offers children both windows into another’s world and mirrors into their own. The phrase ‘windows and mirrors’ was first coined by Doctor Rudine Sims Bishop in 1991, and refers to the need for children to see themselves and others in their stories. Through the character of Hasina, Australian children can see themselves in the familiar experiences they share with her: quieting down younger siblings, solving maths problems at school or having teenage crushes. There is so much about Hasina that is relatable, and through this relatability the story shines a light on all the things that connect us as people, no matter how different our lives are. It is through these differences, however, that children are also offered a window into Hasina’s world. Readers are introduced to a world so unlike the one they know in Australia. One with different languages, foods, clothing, customs and religious practices, and one where persecution forces Rohingya families like Hasina’s out of their homes - and their country.

Much of the novel takes place in the aftermath; with Hasina and her small but vital community of family and friends learning to survive and rebuild as best they can. Through this, the myriad of complications and crimes that arise in times of oppression are explored. The family must navigate sickness and starvation, and Hasina must protect six-year-old Araf from being stolen and sold. The story also tackles issues of women’s rights and gender inequality in an undertone throughout. By placing Hasina as the protagonist, the roles, rights and expectations of women and girls are of constant consideration in the background of the story.
Importantly, the story examines the ongoing impact of trauma in a realistic way. Hasina’s aunt and cousin are refugees who fled their home years prior, and the trauma of that experience is shown through Ghadiya, Hasina’s cousin, who suffers from post-traumatic stress. As Hasina goes through her own trauma in the novel, her inner thoughts and feelings perfectly capture the sense of fear, confusion, pain and emptiness of trauma. However, through small acts of kindness by others (most notably a stallholder in the bazaar and a lawyer from Sittwa), they also capture those of hope, compassion and love.

Hasina is such an important book for Australian children, particularly as our country continues to deny basic human rights to refugees. Beautifully crafted, it shines a light on the realities of persecution and displacement, and shows the strength of perseverance and kindness in the face of bigotry and fear.'
Sarah Mokrzycki, sessional lecturer/tutor and PhD Candidate at Victoria University, VIC

'When Hasina first hears the “tocata tocata tocata” of the helicopters over her village, she also feels a stone in her belly. As the story progresses, that stone becomes heavier and harder; a stone which weighs Hasina down with the “heaviness of fear”.

Hasina is 14 years old. Hasina lives with her mother and father, her brother and beloved grandmother, her aunt and cousin. Hasina loves mathematics and soccer. Hasina loves school and longs to once again be allowed to attend. Hasina lives in Myanmar. Hasina is Rohingya.

Once a place where “Muslim and Buddhist, Rohingya and Arakanese lived side by side”, Myanmar has become a place of hatred and cruelty, of exploitation and violence. When the soldiers come and Hasina becomes separated from her parents, she realises that she cannot tell the men from the demons and Hasina is forced to become protector of her young brother and cousin.

This is a powerful novel which explores the injustice of the Rohingya Muslims treatment in Myanmar and the reality of a life lived in fear of the Police, the Sit Tat and the Buddhist extremists. It explores associated issues of child exploitation, ethnic persecution, loss of childhood innocence, religion and cultural identity. Ultimately though, Hasina’s story is one which resonates with humanity, highlighting how hope and resilience persevere.

The story is told from third person point of view, but a strong connection is developed between the reader and Hasina. The language is vivid and sensory assisting the reader to visualise an unfamiliar world. Hasina is characterised as a girl who just wants to learn and laugh. The story emphasises the shared experience of being human, rather than the cultural and religious differences that tear communities apart. There is a strong contrast between what was and what is which the supplementary information supplied in the text helps explain.

The novel naturally lends itself to the cross-curriculum priority of Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia and would work well with English students in Years 7 – 8. There are comprehensive Teachers’ Notes available on the Allen and Unwin website which would prove to be most useful for planning.'
Lisa Black, English Teacher, Kelmscott Senior High School, WA

Hasina continues the Through My Eyes narrative series, about children living in conflict zones. The main protagonist; Hasina, epitomises the courage and hope that this series successfully embodies. Hasina is a 14 year old female that must live through the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. It is through her eyes and experiences that the reader is engaged, willing Hasina to save not only herself but her cousin and younger brother.

The narrative is enhanced with a brief introductory paragraph distinguishing Burma prior to 1989 and Myanmar after 1989. This historical background is positioned alongside a map of Myanmar and its neighbouring countries helping to contextualise this historical fiction for readers.

The end of the novel contains a detailed timeline, glossary and section entitled ‘Find Out More About’ which provides websites and YouTube clips for students to further engage with the historical background of Myanmar and the Rohingya crisis.

Ideal classroom uses for Stage 3 and Stage 4 (upper primary/lower secondary) for the Australian Curriculum:

A thematic study of the novel could include; family, culture, resilience, persecution, human rights.

Hasina an ideal novel for engaging students with narrative non-fiction to enhance their learning. History and Geography teachers that are utilising resources beyond syllabus textbooks will find this text a valuable classroom inclusion.'
Jodie Webber, NSW