ADDRESSES: Home—Milan, Italy. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Atheneum Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Lupo Omega, E. Elle, 1999.
Mille pezzi al giorno, E. Elle, 2000.
Storia di Iqbal, E. Elle, 2001, translation by Ann Lenori published as Iqbal, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2003.
Bazar, E. Elle, 2002.
Johnny il seminatore, Fabbri (Italy), 2005.
ADAPTATIONS: Iqbal was adapted as an audiobook, Recorded Books, 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: Italian writer Francesco D'Adamo is the author of adult noir fiction and several books for young adults. Translated for English-speaking readers, his teen novel Iqbal is based on the life, and death, of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who from the age of seven worked as a bonded child laborer in Lahore carpet factories. Eventually, Iqbal was given the chance to tell his story to the world, traveling to the United States and Sweden, and he was awarded the Reebok Youth in Action Award. Upon returning to his village in April of 1995, however, the boy was murdered, and the killers, suspected to be part of Pakistan's so-called "Carpet Mafia," were never caught. Iqbal was thirteen years old when he died.
D'Adamo tells Iqbal's story through the narrator Fatima. Sold into servitude to pay the debts of her father, Fatima, like other children in her situation, suffers from long hours of work, heat, and inadequate nutrition, and sleeps by her loom in Hussain Khan's carpet factory. Horn Book reviewer Nell Beram wrote that while the narrator "remains one-dimensional—she is basically a means of disseminating information about Iqbal," the story is nonetheless praiseworthy for its details, characterizations, and dialogue. As Fatima relates in the novel, Iqbal escapes to join the Bonded Labor Liberation Front and, with activist adults, is successful in liberating children from these factories. A Kirkus Reviews critic wrote that the work of these liberators "will move readers for years to come."
D'Adamo told CA: "I was profoundly moved and indignant when, in April 1995, I read in Italian newspapers that a twelve-year-old Pakistani boy had been murdered simply because he had rebelled against being exploited; but, as time went on, the story slipped from my mind. We live in a period when cruel, painful stories are daily events: wars, massacres, drought, starvation. In the end, even though it's painful to admit the fact, we become inured to them. We forget, we lose our memory.
"One day, however, as I was walking through the streets of Milan, where I live, I saw a poster with Iqbal's face on it, and his story forced its way back into my mind. And I felt ashamed. 'How could you have forgotten?' I asked myself. 'If you've forgotten, so have all the others.' There and then I decided that I had to tell the story of this modern-day hero, so it wouldn't be lost again.
"Iqbal is a novel for memory because boys and girls are the memory of our future. As you know, a writer usually invents stories. I believe, however, that a writer also has a duty to tell stories about real life, while maintaining a different perspective from a journalist's or historian's.
"The children in the story are my invention. An author creates, uses fantasy. That's the miracle of writing and reading, in my opinion: the possibility of entering worlds that could never have been imagined before. When I begin a new book I'm happy and excited, and the story I am telling I tell first to myself. Sometimes I wonder how the story will end."
"For Iqbal's story, unhappily, someone else had already written the ending."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 1, 2003, Hazel Rochman, review of Iqbal, p. 496.
Horn Book, November-December, 2003, Nell Beram, review of Iqbal, p. 742.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2003, review of Iqbal, p. 1310.
School Library Journal, November, 2003, Kathleen Isaacs, review of Iqbal, p. 138.
[Sketch reviewed by publisher, Atheneum Books.]