Iqbal by Francesco D’Adamo (translated by Ann Leonori) is a young adult novel based on the true story of a boy who, as a child slave in Pakistan, changed the outlook for the hopeless children who work at the rug-making factory he has been transferred to. As told from the fictionalized perspective of a young girl who has also been in slavery in the rug-making factory for years, the story is an emotional and heart-breaking roller coaster for the young reader.
The book is a realistic harsh chapter book, so take care that readers are able to handle the concepts presented therein, such as child slavery. I read this book a few months ago, and I believe I may have been in a very emotional part of my pregnancy because I cried from the very beginning to the end of the book!
The story is told from the perspective of a girl who had been captured and sold into child slavery end now faces a hopeless future as she works at the loom to make rugs. Because of the difficulty of working the small fibers to make the handmade rugs, children were thought the best to make these rugs because their hands are smaller and therefore more dexterous to weave the fibers.
The girl’s story is heartbreaking enough. When Iqbal arrived at the factory, however, things begin to change. The boy has had a similar path into slavery as the other children, but he seems to have a more positive outlook on what can happen and his own worth as a person apart from the slave work he must finish. As a result, he sees that their situation is unfair and he begins fighting for change. Many of the children are punished as Iqbal leads a rebellion against the rug factory master. Iqbal tries to escape, and his later rebellions inspire the other children to rebel as well against the cycle of abuse.
The end of the story (in the book) is a happy one. Iqbal and those in his factory do escape. The end of the real Iqbal’s story is not as happy. He had been sold into slavery at age 4 over a less than $8 debt; he finally escaped to freedom at age 10. He was fatally shot at age 12 in 1995 after spending two years speaking out for children’s rights and against child slavery around the world. (See Wikipedia.)
It is sad for me to realize that this is just one modern story out of very many in this modern era in which children have been sold into slavery and forced to work in such abusive conditions. I wish there was a way we could help where it felt like we were helping. Reading such a book and raising awareness is a good first step.