Street of Storytellers: Reviews and comments
Street of Storytellers is a storytelling delight, following the journey of a teenage American boy into the teeming bazaars of Pakistan and a world of musicians, refugees, scholars and the religious fanatics who will become the followers of Osama bin Laden. The story is rich in detail and suspense. Young Luke, resentful of his father’s research project and unwilling to learn about the culture around him, ends up learning more than he could ever have expected.
David Moats, author of Civil Wars and winner of the Pulitzer Prize
An exciting adventure story of a young American boy in a historic but dangerous part of our world.
Timeri Murari, author of The Taliban Cricket Club
Street of Storytellers is a vivid and layered novel of family angst, clashing cultures, navigating friendships, first love, and wisdom versus extremism amid frightening political and religious tensions in 1984 Pakistan – as told by Luke, a 15 year old American who did not want to be there. Wilhelm skillfully weaves history into dramatic fiction that is both a personal story and a perspective on world events today.
Deborah Rodriguez, author of Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, and The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul
Street of Storytellers is an ingeniously written tale about a young American boy’s search for truth, love and meaning in an enchanting and sometimes violent world. Set in Peshawar, Pakistan, this exciting thriller is a marvelous portrayal of a society caught in the conflict between religious extremists and Sufi mystics, intolerance and freedom of expression, and the forces of hate and redemption through love.
Ali Asani, Professor of Indo-Muslim Cultures, Harvard University
In this YA thriller, an American teenager in Peshawar faces an ethical conundrum when he’s recruited by jihadis to destroy his father’s project.
It’s December 1984, and Luke Sands, 15, is angry that because of his parents’ recent divorce, he has to spend Christmas vacation with his father in Peshawar, the capital city of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province. Professor Sands is so obsessed with writing a book about an ancient civilization in the Peshawar Valley that it broke apart his marriage, and Luke wants nothing to do with the project.
Luke shuts down and refuses to go sightseeing, preferring to listen to Bob Marley on his Walkman. But when father and son reconnect with the Shaheens, a Pashtun family they’d known back home in Saratoga, New York, Luke is drawn to the rebelliousness of their son, Rasheed, or “Rashi,” and to the beauty and intelligence of Rashi’s younger sister, Danisha, “Dani.” Although Luke makes a rash promise to help carry out a fatwa against his father’s book, he also gains a new appreciation for Pakistan’s rich cultural past when he’s introduced to Pir Sahib, a wise Sufi teacher, and hears traditional music at the shrine of a Sufi poet. Meanwhile, Luke struggles with his feelings for Dani, because any interaction is forbidden in strict Pashtun culture. A dangerous culture clash brews that puts people, artifacts, and scholarship at risk.
Wilhelm (Treasure Town, 2016, etc.), a prolific writer of middle-school, YA, and Choose Your Own Adventure books, offers an absorbing, rich historical tale. The thriller educates readers about the mid-80s forces that led up to 9/11, and Wilhelm also provides a useful historical afterword covering 1985 to the present day. An especially strong, moving, and well-described theme is the power of music to overcome barriers of many kinds, while the book also honestly acknowledges limitations and challenges in fighting extremism. Luke is a believable character who makes mistakes but also redeems himself with courage and generosity.
An entertaining, thoughtful look at a complicated historical, religious, artistic, and cultural crossroads.