Iqbal: A Novel. Written by Francesco D’Adamo. Aladdin (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 2005 (originally published in 2001). Translated by Ann Leonori. 128 pages. Publisher Recommends for ages 8-12. ISBN: 9781416903291.
This is a fictionalized account of Iqbal Masih’s life from the time he arrived at the third factory where he was enslaved until his death. Fatima, a young girl bonded into service for a carpet maker when her parents need money to pay off debts, tells the story. Although the term is bonded, the fact is more like slavery. Fatima works for a carpet maker in Lahore. Several other children also work for the same carpet maker. Some of them are chained to their looms all the time. Others, like Fatima, are able to leave their looms at night to sleep on a pallet. Fatima barely remembers her family. Although the man she is bonded to removes one of the marks that indicates her debt every day, the list doesn’t actually seem to become smaller. This is Fatima’s life. She has no hope that it will change.
One day Iqbal arrives as a new bonded servant in the factory where Fatima works. He believes that children should not be forced to work as slaves. His courage and his charisma bring hope to the other children. He will not accept his fate and spent his childhood as a slave. His attempts to take action against his treatment lead to brutal punishment, yet he still hopes.
Iqbal brought freedom to hundreds of Pakistani children, and he brought hope to thousands more. He worked with the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan. He won the Reebok Award for Youth in Action and was asked to speak at an International Conference on Labor Problems. He was also promised a free college education by a school in the Boston area. His ultimate goal was to become an attorney and use that position to free children from slavery. At about 13 years of age, he was killed by an unknown assailant.
The first 20 or 30 pages of this book are a bit slow. After that the pace picks up and the interest level rises. The last page of the book lists further resources on Iqbal Masih, Children’s Rights, and Child Labor.
After having read this historical fiction account of Iqbal, I’d like to read a biography of this remarkable young man.