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The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  877 ratings  ·  110 reviews
The startling memoir of a young woman
shaped by two dramatically disparate worlds Born in Britain, Saira Shah was inspired by her father's dazzling stories to rediscover the now lost life their forebears knew for 900 years within sight of orchards, snow-topped mountains, and the minarets of Kabul. This is Saira -- part sophisticated and sensitive Western liberal, part fear
Audio CD, 4 pages
Published September 2nd 2003 by HarperCollins Canada / Audio, Us Adul (first published January 28th 2003)
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It's hard to know what to say about this book. I said a lot of it in the journal entry for the audio version. I am so glad I was introduced to this book. It's such a great "Current Events" class without all the traditional dry "clip an article from the paper and come to class prepared to talk about it". I don't know if it makes sense or not, but one of the things about this book that resonates with me is her desire to call a country her own. My dad was in the (American) Air Force, and although I ...more
This book was very eye-opening. I loved the insights about the Afghani myths and culture. However, by the end of the book, I was really tired about listening to her wax philosophical and whiny about how she couldn't reconcile her eastern heritage with her western upbringing, and about how she couldn't find herself, when there were actual atrocities and horrors unfolding all around her.

At one point, after she had knowingly dishonored her family and her beloved uncle by moving in with her boyfrie
Growing up in Kent, England, Saira Shah was a long way from her parents' homeland, Afghanistan. But her father's stories steeped her in the culture of the old country, and she yearned to visit the magic kingdom that she was sure was her true home. From her first visit at seventeen, she was hooked, even though the reality of Afghanistan she found as a journalist was very different from the beautiful dream she chased. Embedding herself with the mujahidin who fought the invading Soviet troops, she ...more
This book is a MUST-READ! If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. Why? Because it is a marvelous balancing act of the stories, myths and philosophical beliefs of Afghanistan and a clear presentation of historical facts, Afghanistan's passage from the Soviet take-over in 1980 to the mujahidin control 1992-1996 and thereafter Afghanistan under the Talibans through 2001 and 9/11. The author's struggle wih her own Afghan identity is a very important part of the book. It helps the reader furthe ...more
Dec 14, 2009 Rehana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rehana by: Umm Faycell
Liked the historical aspect of the book but author's personal journey lacked real depth for my interest. It seemed like a soul searching channel 4 news report - and how soul searching does that ever get?!
Part memoir, part reportage, this beautifully written book is also an inquiry into the nature of myth, identity, and the limits of human endurance. Born in England and raised on the memories of her Afghan father's homeland, the author journeys as a young journalist to Afghanistan during the Soviet Occupation in the 1980s, traveling with the mujahidin rebels, who with massive infusions of weapons from the CIA eventually drive out the Russians and then quickly succumb again to an equally destructi ...more
Jan 11, 2012 Toni rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lynne
Recommended to Toni by: Chrissie
English born Saira Shah's was weaned on her father's stories of a lush and majestic land, instilling in her the desire to search for her Afghani roots. As an adult her longing to find her ancestral land takes her into the violence and upheaval of an Afghanistan torn apart by years of invaders. It's a difficult, though moving, story of the time she spent as a journalist in a land she beautifully describes.

I now have a much better grasp of Afghanistan's convoluted history and the mindset of it's
Nov 16, 2007 Peggy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: biography/currrent affairs/ history
This is a remarkable book, Saira Shah takes us on a journey from an English childhood, laced with Afghan myths handed down from her father, to the terrors and complexities of present-day Afghanistan.. at eh end of it you are left with the truest sense of this magical country together with the recognition that exceptional English writer is also unmistakably Afghani..
The book is alive with detail, emotion, myth, fable, bleeding reality and the author's struggle with her different selves; mild-mann
Maria (Ri)
So this book made it clear to me that I knew little of Afghanistan with any real understanding. I had read The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I still didn't have a clear picture of all the various ethnic groups and struggles that have taken place during the past 30+ years. This book was beautiful and horrid and confusing all at the same time. It was hard for me to keep track of all the places and people, but that just added to my understanding of the chaos that has ensued there. W ...more
The story tellers daughter tells you what was really going on in Afghanistan.
'When you meddle with the foundations of society, the whole structure tumbles down. The woman were the bricks at the bottom of the pile. No wonder the city is just a pile of rubbish.'
It is finely written and deeply disturbing. To not read it would be like never eating an olive. Recommended again and again.
This book did enrich my understanding of the Afghan culture, mostly post Soviet invasion. But I did struggle a bit with her preoccupation of stalking the Afghan myth that she grew up which was mostly dispelled by the end of the book, and her seeming lack of sensitivity to the overwhelming suffering she must have encountered. Maybe she felt it but did not express it - who knows. But I do greatly admire her incredible courage - this is one very brave woman.
Jenny Ekberg
The story is vivid and captivating. I have a strong interest in Afghanistan and Afghan people, and I like how she does not just describe her people as victims but with immense pride. Saira is a fantastic storyteller and you can close your eyes and at any moment feel like you are in Afghanistan.

I felt the book was a bit too focused on the greatness of the authors ancestors(similar to her brother's books), and I was disturbed by her glorification of war (particularly the comment on how she during
Mary Robles
I don't think I would recommend this book. The writer was so scattered all over the place. I had a hard time keeping track to who and what was happening.
This book was difficult for me to get through but I am glad I finally returned to it and finished it. The book is a very introspective, non-fiction account of a British reporter who spends years on and off in Afghanistan covering the Russian occupation and subsequent civil war. I think the reason I found it hard to read was because it is quite self indulgent and because I was stressed as I anticipated things getting worse as the story progresses. The time of the Taliban rule is horrendous to rea ...more
This book was a great read for me because it is about Afghanistan and Pakistan and I traveled there at age 18. Many of the places described are places I visited and have impressionable memories of - notably Peshawar on the Pakistan/Afghanistan boarder, Kabul and Paghman.

Interesting as well that I have read some of the books of Idries Shaw, father of Saira Shah, so the reflection on her life as a child growing with with her famous father, writer of Sufi stories, was another nice dimension of this
I found this book completely absorbing. The author has written a story that is informative, illuminating, passionate and wrenching as she takes us along on her quest to know her home land... its mystique, its landscape and its people, her people.

I have read half a dozen or so books on Afghanistan recently, my own quest of sorts to understand better some thing of the history, culture, and traditions of a people I have not had the benefit of knowing except through the lens of war as presented in
This book by Saira Shah was very interesting. I cannot imagine putting on a shalwar kameez, pretending to be a young man, and trekking around Afgahnistan with the Mujahideen during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union. What an amazing and unforgettable experience that must have been. For me, I felt Shah's book shed some light upon how difficult it is to live in two different worlds. On the one hand she grew up in the west, and on the other hand she was raised with a fierce love of her family' ...more
The Storyteller’s Daughter is a memoir of a British born Afghan woman. The author’s narrative style is enjoyable and easy to read. Ms. Shah, a British journalist, intersperses Afghan and family history, philosophy and legends with her personal experiences. When a little girl her father told her stories about Afghanistan and later said, “I’ve given you stories to replace a community. They are your community.”
Very early in the book she relates some of her experiences while filming “Beneath the Vei
Saira Shah has an absorbing story to tell, herself, as we follow her in pursuit of an Afghanistan she was raised to believe in as a nearly mystical place, at her father's knee.

A brilliant author with a fascinating life, Ms Shah kept me on the edge of my seat and the hours flew by as I listened to her descriptions of the Afghaney (sp?) people, the Taliban, and her travels through the mountain terrains to seek her ancestory home and people. What she found in the end was far more than she'd hoped f
If you want to learn a little more about Afghanistan, Saira Shah will take you there. Shah's father was from Afghanistan but eventually settled in the UK. Saira had heard his stories growing up and had idealized view of the country. She traveled there as a journalist beginning in the 1980s during the Afghan war with the Soviets and through 2001. Trying to figure out the ever changing players in that part of the world was eye-opening for her and for the reader. An interesting and enjoyable book.
The three star rating is only because I'm a fiction girl at heart, and this is a non-fiction account of an Englishwoman of Afghani heritage returning to Afghanistan during the time of the mujahedin and then again later after Sept 11. I certainly enjoyed reading this book, and I learned a lot about the Afghan people that I didn't know, such as how the Taliban came to power as a result of the mujahedin warlords fighting for supremacy. Some passages were unforgettable. At one point, Sairah is being ...more
It’s a book on Saira Shah’s journey to find the Afghanistan in her father’s stories. Instead she finds barren land and a land thats on war. But caught in between are the simple people whose lives are shattered, homes lost, wandering and living in foreign lands as refugees. The book gives glimpses of life when there was peace, life during the war with Soviets and finally the life in Taliban era where women cannot study or work but can only beg in the streets. The book follows Saira as she climbs ...more
Wanting to realize a reunion with her heritage from
her Afghan father’s side of the family, Saira Shah
finds the beauty of a country torn apart by war and
political strategies. She is finding the truth about
the country of her heritage. It is not an easy read
in view of September 11, 2001 and some of the stories
concerning the Taliban. I am so happy that evil man
was taken off the world stage (Osama Bin Laden).
There was also a mention of Rwanda and the genocide there,
with regard to the press ig
Saira Shah begins her book by talking about her family and growing up in England but always being aware that Afghanistan is her homeland. She hears stories about the fabulous estate that was once owned by her family but lost to them when her grandfather was unable to return home to claim it during WW2.

Saira Shah is a journalist who has made a career of visiting war zones and she therefore took the opportunity to cover the hostilities in Afghanistan so that she could experience her homeland in pe
This felt like more if a condensed version if a larger collection of stories, so it at times felt like we were moving along too quickly. Very good information about Afghanistan. The title isn't really relevant til the last couple of sentences, do pick this book by its summary, don't judge it by its name.
Lee Ann
I found this book pretty dull at some points, but very interesting at others. Shah has a great talent for storytelling and her language is often beautiful. Of the books I've had to read for school this semester this was honestly probably my favorite, although I don't think I liked it enough to reread it again in the future. It was very eye-opening though.
Lyn Elliott
I came across this book by chance, and have been riveted by it. As Saira Shah's journeys into Afghanistan lead her to see into, then beyond, her romantic dreams of its culture, we accompany her step be step. Her writing is vivid and immediate, capturing images of individuals, war in mountains and in towns and the many ways in which strong traditional ties hold people into place like great steel cables.
It is no mean achievement that the her insights remain fresh and relevant even though the book
I really enjoyed the insight into Afghan culture given through her experiences, but in the end...there was no resolution, no conclusion (at least imo). I think it could have been a great book, but it wasn't.
Randall Wood
The best travel writing interleaves the personal with the external, and Shah's tale of personal reconciliation in a perhaps unreconcilable land is poignant and moving. Her prose falls short of the mark, perhaps given her background in journalism rather than something more evocative (I much prefer Colin Thubron for his immense vocabulary and clever turns of phrase) but Shah's insights into Afghanistan are precious. It's an easy to recommend introduction to the complexity and convolution of a land ...more
An autobiography of Shah's work in Afghanistan during the Soviet war, the period of the Taliban and post-Taliban, woven together with her own thoughts on seeking the mystical homeland she had heard about in stories from her father and relatives while growing up. An interesting and well-written narrative with interesting insights into life in Afghanistan as well as the difficulty of coming to grips with the difference between one's image of a place and it's reality. Shah was born and raised in En ...more
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Writer, reporter, and documentary film maker, Shah is daughter of Afghan author Idries Shah and sibling to Tahir Shah and Safia Shah. She is named after her grandmother, Scottish writer Saira Elizabeth Luiza Shah, who wrote as Morag Murray Abdullah.

Her film credits include Beneath the Veil, Death in Gaza, and Unholy War.
More about Saira Shah...
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