Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Review: The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg

Synopsis: An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl. In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults. At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere. (From the Publisher's Website)

Review: This is a hard book to read. Between the subject matter and Nordberg's intense writing, this book grabs you in the gut. It's a well know fact that women in Afghanistan on treated horribly. Anyone with 1/4 a brain has heard or read something about that. Nordberg manages to suss out a new angle on this well-documented subject - namely - women who get to live as men, even for a while. She explored this topic with clarity and gave her readers access to a raw and intense narrative. What these women suffer - it's unthinkable for us in the Western World. This book will have a treasured place in my collection of works on Afghanistan and Women. I highly recommend this to anyone who wished to know more about this subject. An excellent read. 

NOTE: I received this book free from the LibraryThing Early Review's Program in exchange for my fair and honest opinion. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-307-95249-3
Date Finished: 6-27-2014
Pages: 340

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