Study Guide

Shauzia in The Breadwinner

By Deborah Ellis


Shauzia, like Parvana, dresses up like a boy to support her family. She was Parvana's classmate in school, and when Parvana runs into her at the market, they both are thrilled to have friend to share their days with. But though they're in similar situations, Shauzia is pretty different from Parvana. Her home life isn't nearly as loving—her dad is dead and she and her sickly mother are forced to live with her father's family, who aren't very nice—and Shauzia is much more daring than her little friend.

It was Shauzia's idea, for instance, that she and Parvana sell bones for money. When Parvana questions the idea, Shauzia just says:

What do we care, as long as we get paid? (10.11)

And when she says this, we see not only that she's got an adventurous streak, but that she's also resourceful—she's just a kid like Parvana, but she's working the system a bit more, willing to do whatever it takes to try to get ahead even just a little bit. And just as she promises they will, the girls earn enough money to buy trays, which enables them to walk around and sell gum and cigarettes.

While Shauzia seems carefree, she is actually focused on her future. She wants out of Afghanistan stat, and saves "a little bit each day" (12.15) in order to turn her dream of living in France—where "the sun is shining, people are smiling, and flowers are blooming" (12.24)—into reality. As the book ends, Shauzia takes off with nomads in the hopes of making it to France, but before she leaves she gives Parvana a bag of dried apricots and promises reunite with her in front of the Eifel Tower in twenty years.

Despite the Taliban's best efforts, this girl has a life to lead, and she's determined to overcome any obstacle that stands in her way.