Child refugee’s journey of loss and persistent appreciation for life

It’s hard to remain positive when the world keeps stepping on you. You’re likely to fall into despair or burn with a fiery rage. But this boy persevered and didn’t let life’s challenges bring him down.

In “Muskka” (Fulton Books), A.B. Dulz shares his childhood story of survival and how he and his family fled the hardships of Afghanistan to come to the U.S.A. While he could have easily succumbed to bitterness and anger and been swallowed by the violence, death and abandonment that had followed him since childhood, he chose to hold onto hope and embrace life.

Muskka — a nickname lovingly given to Abdul by his grandfather — was born in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he lived with his large family until he was seven years old. Then, tragedy struck.

After the sudden death of his father — who was shot 27 times for his affiliation with the government — Muskka’s mother abandons him and his older brother, taking their older sister with her. Muskka and his brother continue to live with their grandfather — a writer and artist who inspires Muskka’s own artistic interests — until a change in government regimes leaves the family vulnerable to persecution. Forced to flee to Pakistan, Muskka and his family embark on a hard journey rife with violence and degradation.

Once the family finally finds their way to the safe harbor of Pakistan, their lives are still filled with hardships. From the filth that runs down the streets to the poor education he receives at school, the accidental deaths of friends and neighbors, and the police’s abuse of authority, Mukska’s childhood is harsh and unfamiliar. But even surrounded by death and decay, Muskka continues to maintain a positive outlook. He knows there is something better waiting just around the corner.

Muskka’s luck finally seems to turn around when his family gains refugee status and flies to America. He is finally able to sleep through the night without hearing gunfire. He enjoys this new-found quietude and change of scenery — but misfortune is still hot on his heels.

Between an abusive home life, several more relocations and the gang violence threatening him at school and on the streets, Muskka struggles to contain his growing anger and bitterness. With strength and determination, he holds on to his kind, light-hearted spirit and hopes things will get better.

Through the combination of his positive attitude and ever-changing circumstances, Muskka’s life finally takes a turn for the better. You’ll have to read to find out exactly how.

Throughout his memoir, Dulz points out everything he is grateful for and details how he has grown to appreciate the adversity he’s overcome.

His son has never experienced an empty belly, and Dulz makes sure he understands what a privilege that truly is. His grandfather’s artistic spirit may have been denied, but Dulz still inhabits his love of writing and art, a love he continues to share with his wife and nourish in his daughter.

“Muskka” is a story filled with hardship and despair, but at no point does the reader feel like the narrator will succumb to the harsh world around him. Instead of witnessing the hardening of his soul, readers behold a young, kind-hearted boy who preserved his sympathy and compassion for others and flourished into a respectable man.

This is a man who appreciates the fragility of life — a man who’s grateful for sour plums and savors every bite. We could all learn a thing or two from him.

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