Say it with me — “absolutely nothing.”
Ali has been through one long war – Iran vs. Iraq – and now is living through the short, first Gulf War. He and his family are not fans of Saddam Hussein, but what can they do? Like many, they are just trying to survive. He and his parents can remember a time when it was safer, at least, and he could go to school, but his new normal is hiding out in his house and trying not to engage with the neighborhood bullies, who just happen to be the kids of government leaders who can and do disappear people.
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein is about a childhood in an unsettled time and place, where turning the wrong corner might mean witnessing a mass execution, helping an old woman who’s fallen, being teased for being a Kurd, or playing soccer with your best friend. It relates a child’s impressions of war – from watching for planes to being annoyed that your brother is suddenly the man of the house and can boss you around. There are jokes and games of Monopoly, too, in a loving family like his.
Saddam Hussein might not be a name that many children today know well, but the world seems to keep creating similar types. This could be a powerful way to talk about our troubled world with kids and to highlight how different a child’s life might be in another neighborhood, city, or country.
Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: based on a true story by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil