West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story
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West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  756 ratings  ·  137 reviews
A passionate personal journey through two cultures in conflict

Shortly after militant Islamic terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, Tamim Ansary of San Francisco sent an e-mail to twenty friends, telling how the threatened U.S. reprisals against Afghanistan looked to him as an Afghan American. The message spread, and in a few days it had reached, and affected, millio...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2002)
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Janelle
I read this book because Khlaed Hosseini mentioned it as a book Westerners should read about Afghanistan (see the whole list here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jlw_in_p...). It was delightfully engaging exploration of the lost world of Afghanistan. It begins with a story about an email he composed following the 9/11 attacks, an email which went viral and brought him a lot of media attention.

In Part One, "The Lost World," Afghan-American Ansary describes his boyhood in Afghanistan (his mother is...more
Masayu Mahmud
I was glad to reach the end of the book. It fell short of my expectations of being a good read to be curled up in the sofa with. Ansary is highly self indulgence and whiny. He was awkward and disastrous as a traveller always seeking for the easy way out in order to accomplish what he thought was a journey to find himself. Though he had good intentions of seeking out who he is and where he came from his lack of resourcefulness and inability to be decisive and creative in addressing his challenges...more
Shalini Perumal
It's been a while since I have read this for book the first time and, despite having lent it to my good Afghan friend Kobra and hearing her not-so-happy review of the book, I remember thinking how amazing it was. Now, maybe with more enlightened news sources and maturity, I have a different perspective of the book. It is clear that Tamim Ansary aimed for the book to showcase his struggles as an Afghan and an American, and it became blatantly apparent that that was the sole purpose of the book -...more
Matt
This was really quite an impressive little book, humbled maybe only by it's own lack of ambition and grand vision.

Ansary tells us his life story, which allows him to go through most of the twentieth century history of Afghanistan as well as some of the more salient points in the history of Islam, especially as they relate to the current shape of what sometimes gets called Islamic fundamentalism. He also makes a convincing exploration of his own hyphenated self, half-American and half-Afghan.

It's...more
S
I rate this book with just two stars, mostly because the title did not meet the expectations I had of the content of the book. The sub title of the books reads: "An Afghan American Story", when really it should read "An Afghan American's Personal Journey through the world of Islam".

Essentially, in the preface, you learn that the author sent off an email to 20 friends the day after the events of September 11, 2001, when there was talk on radio talk shows of bombing Afghanistan back to the stone...more
Merredith
I only got to page 206 of this book, before i realized it was a chore and decided not to finish. i gave it two stars rather than one because at the beginning of the book, i was really enjoying it. this is a book written by an afghan american, and it starts just after 9/11. he then goes back to his childhood in afghanastan...he was born in the late 40s I think. this whole part is very interesting. we learn about how the country was at the time, what was going on, interspersed with little anecdote...more
Richard Thompson
Tamim Ansary's father was one of a number of young men sent (in the 1040's) by the Afghan government to study in the United States. While he was there he met a young woman whose family had emigrated to the US from Finland. Despite the fact that these Afghan men had been forbidden to marry during their time in America, Ansary's father married his Finnish-American sweetheart and took her back to Afghanistan.

Eventually, the young American woman finds a place for herself within the traditional famil...more
Christina
I spent more than a month trying to read "West of Kabul, East of New York" and I have given up.

Tamim Ansary seems like a very intelligent, thoughtful man. (No, that's not redundant. Intelligence and thought don't always go together.)

And he provides the best explanation of the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims I've ever read. (I'd post it here, but it's kind of long.)

After more than 100 pages, there was still no true conflict. Ansary says it was awkward - and maybe a little unpleasant - g...more
Ahmer
Tamim Ansary, the author of this book, was born in the 'Lost World,' as he describes it, of Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion. He grew up with an Afghan father, and an American mother. His descriptions about life in pre-war Afghanistan and about his journey in the Islamic world are so vivid, you feel as if you're right there next to him as he embarks on life's path. He wrote this autobiography after an e-mail that he had sent to a few friends, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, went viral....more
Nonito Abbu
I have always been fascinated by memoirs, especially the ones about people with exotic upbringings. Tamim Ansary's book was something that I have always been looking forward to reading. I very much enjoyed Khaled Hosseini's novels, and I was expecting the same sort of gripping, climactic and gut-wrenching narrative from this Hosseini compatriot. The first few chapters of the book gave a really solid foundation and a nice backdrop for an otherwise disastrous human tragedy that was looming, but th...more
Ozma
Tamim Ansary's memoir of his childhood in Afghanistan is a lovely and enjoyable book. He wrote this book after a column he wrote immediately after 9/11 went viral. Ansary's column came out in the midst of the entire country pointing its angry eyes and Afghanistan. And the column made us realize that Afghans are people too, and that they hadn't bargained to be in the middle of what would turn out to be an over-decade long war. I believe that, from that column, Ansary got this book deal, and I'm g...more
Joanne
Maybe after 9/11 you got Ansary's email explaining why bombing Afghanistan would be a bad idea (because the people there have suffered enough under the Taliban). Nearly overnight his email was forwarded across the world and he became an expert on U.S-Afghan relations. This book is his memoir of growing up in Afghanistan and then moving to the U.S, and then traveling in the 1970s back to the Middle East. Along the way he talks mostly entertainingly about culture, history, and religion. He explain...more
Melinda
I picked this book up to read because the author also wrote a book on Islamic history that I thought was worthwhile (see http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... ). Always wanting to know the background of the historians, I decided to read about the author himself.

Tamim is the middle of three children, all born in Afghanistan. His oldest sister who lived the longest in Afghanistan, has become the most western. She lives in the United States, is married to an American, and has chosen not to keep...more
Jen
Enraged by rote generalizations made about Afghanistan immediately after September 11, Tamin Ansary, an Afghani-American book publisher, sent an e-mail demystifying Afghanistan and its people. It went viral -- and so begins this tale spanning time, geography, and political perspective. Ansary outlines his childhood, the son of an American and an Afghani official in both cosmopolitan and rural Afghanistan and follows him across the globe to the San Francisco Bay Area -- and back. More biography t...more
Lisa
I highly recommend listening to this book if you like audio books. It is read by the author and he has such a great voice! I particularly liked his pronunciation of Afghan words - it enriched the story to hear "Kabul" and the names of his family and friends pronounced the way they should be. His descriptions of his time in Istanbul made me feel a bit homesick, though we had very different experiences!

Tamim Ansary is an Afghan American, raised in Afghanistan until his late teens and then spent th...more
Mary
Reflections on life as a bi-cultural Afghan-American...Ansary grew up in Afghanistan for his first 13 years, and then moved to the US. His mother was a Finnish-American schoolteacher; his father was an Afghan who was sent to US for college and graduate school. Ansary describes differences in the way of life in the Afghanistan of his youth (private walled compounds filled with extended family together all the time) and the more individual and public lives of Americans. He reflects on the role of...more
Nicolas Shump
In the aftermath of 9/11 when many U.S. citizens fervently sought revenge on the Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan for its role in the attacks, there was an email that circulated virally regarding the situation in Afghanistan and the prospects for its future if the U.S. decided to attack. The email was written by an Afgan-American named Tamim Ansary who had initially only sent the email to some of his friends. Before he knew it, he had become an Internet celebrity. He wrote this memoir after his e...more
Mel
I have read this book several times over, and assigned it to my students. They have pretty consistent warm reviews of the book.

Tamim Ansary, the author, wrote an email after 9/11 in response to strong language on a radio talk show that we should "bomb Afghanastan back to the Stone Age". His email, which described the Taliban and how their regime was already very oppressive to the people there, circulated to thousands quickly, and Ansary found himself an unlikely spokesperson for Afghan Americans...more
Jenny
Jun 03, 2009 Jenny rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny by: SF Public Library
Shelves: nonfiction-read
This was a great way to learn more from Afghanistan from the perspective of a bicultural guy who grew up there and then moved to the US. His dad was from Afghanistan and his mom was American. He tells the story of his family in modern Afghanistan, so it's more than just a boring history read. Easy, accessible way to get a better understanding of history, Islam, and the Taliban.

One quote I liked: "Translating my father's poem became my way of getting to know his mind. Too bad I started after he...more
Corby
This book is fabulous -- what a journey! This is not just a chronicle of Afghanistan and their turbulent history of the last 40 years, but the search for "who" the author is as the product of both Afghani and Western parents. The author also contrasts his path as an individual with bicultural influences with that of his brother and sister. In his search, the reader can see the struggle of the Afghani community through erstwhile "modernization" and a variety of influences: Western, warring, and r...more
Sally
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth
So very interesting. As a white American woman who has only been exposed to Afghanistan through the media, I am glad to have had the experience of reading this book. It opened up a whole new perspective and understanding of the Afghan people, their culture, and a snippet of their values. Even though it was just a glimpse, it was this characteristic itself that allowed me to understand that there is so much more to this group of people and we, as Americans, can't generalize them, or any other gro...more
Ken Goldman
Interesting memoir. The author gained some notoriety when he sent out a widely distributed email after the 9/11 attacks condemning the Taliban as not representative of all Muslims.

He had an Afghan father and American mother. After the Russian invasion his family moved to the US. The book provided interesting insights into life in Afghanistan before the Russian invasion, and after. The author grew up mostly secular; his brother made a trip to the Mideast and returned as an orthodox observant Mus...more
Heidi
I just read this book for the Gardiner bookclub. I was really disappointed, partly because I thought the author was someone who considered himself to be Afganistan. Although he was raised in Afghanistan, his mother is American, and he considers himself to be American. Learning about how he was raised in Afghanistan is interesting and caught my attention. Then is journey of self-discovery could have been omitted completely. It felt like I was along on someone's bad vacation. The last part, "Forge...more
Lily
An interesting read. I would give it 3.5 stars if I could. I agree with other reviewers that the first part of the book, where he reminisces about his childhood in Afghanistan, is far more interesting than the rest of the book. It was interesting (and rather sad, I thought) to see how American he and his sister became in the end. I have never been interested in the outsider's view of countries / cultures. This book is not exactly an outsider's view and yet not exactly an insider's view either. I...more
Ellen
Right after 9/11, Tamim Ansary wrote an email in response to some call to drop the bomb on Kabul. The email was widely circulated and I ended up forwarding it to my dad, who was really excited to get it because he actually knew Tamim from his childhood.

My father lived in Afghanistan in the early 60s from age 12-14. (My grandfather was working on a USAID irrigation project throught the Department of Agriculture.) Tamim Ansary was one of his friends while he was there. Tamim's mother (who was Amer...more
Chantelle
I read this book as part of One City One Book, a program in San Francisco that encourages all the residents to read the same book and then participate in book clubs, author readings, etc.

It is a story of the author's childhood in Afghanistan and his adult life on the West Coast (mostly San Francisco). The twist is that his mother was an American. In many ways, he belongs in neither country. While the memoir educates on Afghan and Islamic culture, the part I found most fascinating was the concept...more
Ritu
I listened to this book written and and read to the audience by the author himself. Very well-written, endearing book giving us a glimpse of it means to be an Afghan American. I thought I would tire from the usual Muslim religious perspective or the whining victim's voice regarding the backlash against Afghans post 9/11. On the contrary, the book was sensitive and written beautifully. The gentle afghans' lifestyle was revealed and the political events that led to the birth and rise of talibans w...more
Chris
I picked this book up today and can't put it down! I didn't even mean to start! But I feel like I'm talking with Tamim and his descriptions of life and family are so interesting and inviting! Loving it!

Something that stuck with me: " Most of the people I know are like this. We need solitude, because when we're alone, we're free from obligations, we don't need to put on a show, and we can hear our own thoughts. My Afghan relatives achieved this same state by being with one another. Being at home...more
Lena
I enjoyed reading about Afghanistan from the viewpoint of someone with who is intimately acquainted with the country, both rural and urban, as well as its people. I liked that way that the author could be both American and Afghan, and the way that he could appreciate various totally different viewpoints of Afghanistan's problems and particularly the solutions that have been tried. In addition it is a most thought-provoking book, as well as being simply a good read. The only reason I did not give...more
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Mir Tamim Ansary is an Afghan-American author and public speaker. Ansary gained prominence in 2001 after he penned a widely circulated e-mail that denounced the Taliban and called on the United States to bring political change to Afghanistan. The e-mail was a response to a call to bomb Afghanistan "into the Stone Age." His book West of Kabul, East of New York published shortly after the September...more
More about Tamim Ansary...
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“We need solitude, because when we're alone, we're free from obligations, we don't need to put on a show, and we can hear our own thoughts.” 41 likes
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