Seven Daughters and Seven Sons
By Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is the retelling of a traditional Iraqi
folktale in which a young woman disguises herself as a man and opens up a
shop in a distant city in order to help her impoverished family. The book is
written in the first person narrative of the two main characters, Buran and
Mahmud. You will learn aspects of Middle East culture and geography
through reading the book. Complete the following activities as you read the
1. Using an atlas or an Internet map site, map the following locations by
placing a dot at the appropriate location and listing its name next to
the dot: Baghad, Alexandria, Cyprus, Sidon (Sayda), Al-Raqqa (Ar
Raqqah), Aleppo, Antioch (Antakya), Ladhiqiyah (Latakia), Beirut,
Damascus, Tyre (Sur), Tripoli.
2. Label the following on your map: Tigris River, Euphrates River, and
3. As you read „Seven Daughters‟ trace Buran‟s journey with a red pen
drawing an arrow from one city to another.
As you read the story, define the following on a separate sheet of paper.
1. Allah (p. 1) 9. Mohammed (p. 40)
2. Arabic (p. 1) 10. Muezzin (p. 40)
3. Suq (p. 4) 11. Minarets (p. 40)
4. Hijab (p. 20) 12. Khan (p. 41)
5. Jinns (p. 28) 13. „alsalamu alaykun‟ (p. 42)
6. Kismet (p. 31) 14. Mosque (p. 45)
7. Dinar (p. 33) 15. Vizier (p. 61)
8. Bazaar (p. 35) 16. Koran (p. 176)
Answer the following questions in complete sentences on a separate sheet of
1. What is the religion of the people in the novel?
2. How many times are the people to pray each day?
3. What types of food are forbidden in their religion?
4. What is their belief about „fate‟? How is this expressed in the book?
5. What was the traditional role of woman in their society? Were there
6. Why was it difficult for poor women to marry respected men?
7. Describe the market behavior. Do we have anything similar in our
8. What were some common leisure activities in their society? How do
your leisure activities compare?
9. How were guests entertained?
10. Read the conversation between Buran (Nasir) and Jihha on pages 66-
71 and the conversation on pages 90-94. Answer the following
a. What do these conversations reveal about resources and trade?
b. How can a common object in one place be valuable in another?
c. How did Buran use this idea?
11. How did Buran‟s opening statement come true? “What we imagine to
be a blessing can actually be a curse, and what we suppose to be a
curse may blossom into a blessing.”