Beneath My Mother's Feet
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Nazia doesn't mind when her friends tease and call her a good beti, a dutiful daughter. Growing up in a working-class family in Karachi, Pakistan, Nazia knows that obedience is the least she can give to her mother, who has spent years saving and preparing for her dowry. But every daughter must grow up, and for fourteen-year-old Nazia that day arrives suddenly when her father gets into an accident at work, and her family finds themselves without money for rent or food.
Being the beti that she is, Nazia drops out of school to help her mother clean houses, all the while wondering when she managed to lose control of her life that had been full of friends and school. Working as a maid is a shameful obligation that could be detrimental to her future -- after all, no one wants a housekeeper for a daughter-in-law. As Nazia finds herself growing up much too quickly, the lessons of hardship that seem unbearable turn out to be a lot more liberating than she ever imagined.
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Reading Group Guide
The title Beneath My Mother's Feet comes from one of the many sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about mothers: "The gates of heaven lie beneath the mother's feet." Elsewhere, another narrator reports that "I asked the Prophet who has the greatest right over a man, and he said, 'His mother.'" Clearly, mothers hold a special place in a Muslim household. Ask students to write a one-page essay about their mothers or another significant female relative.
1) We learn early on that Nazia likes school and has the respect of her teacher Ms. Haroon. How is her school similar to your school? How is it different? Why is Nazia so devastated when her mother pulls her out of school to work? Discuss the part school plays in Nazia's hopes and dreams.
2) As the book opens, we meet Nazia's neighbors and friends, Maleeha and Saira. As Nazia's circumstances change, she again meets her friends who respond to her in very different ways. When Nazia encounters Saira in the market, how does Saira react and what are her reasons for her behavior? What happens when Nazia asks Maleeha for help? Who is the better friend and why?
3) Soon Nazia must grow up fast to help her family stay together. She longs for her older brother, Bilal, to return home so she can "be a little sister again." What does she lose as she gains more responsibility? What does she find out about herself and the members of her family as each responds to hi see more