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

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  986 Ratings  ·  160 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Picador (first published 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,118)
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Jim B
May 25, 2016 Jim B rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they understand Islam, as well as anyone with an interest in Afghanistan. My experience with Muslims has shown me that there is no more of a uniform, single-minded Islam than there is a Christianity where everyone has the same agenda, values and goals. Reading a memoir of a man who grew up in a form of Islam, and now is an atheist with family and friends in many forms of Islam gives great insight into the challenge we humans have in understanding ...more
Neha Savant
Jul 10, 2016 Neha Savant rated it really liked it
This book was a comfort because it was not an article you could read in 20 minutes claiming to reveal some big truth - articles like these are so ubiquitous the millennial's internet world. Instead, this book is a full-fledged story about one man's journey towards finding identity, community and belonging within two vastly different cultures, especially amidst growing Islamophobia in America. "West of Kabul, East of New York" is bookended by Ansary's reaction to 9/11 and is filled in the middle ...more
Taylor Storey
Jun 03, 2016 Taylor Storey rated it really liked it
Fantastic story of a person caught between living in Afghanistan and the United States. His father was given an opportunity by the afghan government (pre-taliban!) to study in the United States where he met a Finnish-American woman and they hit it off.

Eventually they were married, had kids and one of them is the author, Tamim Ansary. Tamim talks about growing up in Afghanistan, near the American and European expats, never quite being one of them, but never quite being full Afghan either.

He gro
May 24, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it
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.

Nov 10, 2011 Janelle rated it really liked it
I read this book because Khlaed Hosseini mentioned it as a book Westerners should read about Afghanistan (see the whole list here: 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
Masayu Mahmud
Nov 18, 2012 Masayu Mahmud rated it did not like it
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
Paula Dembeck
Feb 21, 2015 Paula Dembeck rated it really liked it
This journalist was born to an American mother and an Afghan father. The couple met and married while Ansary’s father was attending an American University on scholarship. Once he finished his studies they returned to Afghanistan and raised a family. This is the story of the oldest child Tamim, who has lived in both Afghanistan and America, his exploration of his roots and his search for his identity.

Children raised in two cultures respond in different ways to the experience and Tamim has seen th
Oct 08, 2015 brook rated it really liked it
After reading the author's Destiny Disrupted, a detailed history of Islam and an amazing book (that I bought a copy of to have as a reference), I figured I'd pick up something else by the author, this time his story of being born/raised in Afghanistan and then moving to the US. It actually could function as a primer on the Afghan conflict and nation's history for those that don't want to read Destiny.

The book was written after Mr. Ansary sent an email right after 9/11 discussing the attacks and
Feb 15, 2016 Amy added it
Shelves: great-books
Loved this book; definitely recommend reading! Thank you to the author for sharing his story. I am from a mixed background (like many Americans), and I share some of his feelings. Many Americans do not understand what it is like to live in another country. We as Americans have so many freedoms, we are so safe here, we have so much food available, warmth, clothing, access to education.

We, if we were born in this country and we have not traveled to other countries, have no idea what it is like to
Shalini Perumal
Aug 05, 2014 Shalini Perumal rated it liked it
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
Two different cultures, a journey of a man full of wisdom, determination and love not just to his country but also to the things and people around.

You'll learn a lot from this book. You'll understand things from this man's journey.
David Fable
Jun 15, 2015 David Fable rated it liked it
Read for research, and provides an eye-opening view of the culture and sensibility.
Alveera EVHS Khan
May 21, 2015 Alveera EVHS Khan rated it it was amazing
I really liked reading West of Kabul, East of New York because it really related to me. Coming from a diverse background, I also often faced challenges regarding embracing my different cultural identities. Ansary describes how he was able to use writing, like in his famous email, to embrace all his sides. Ansary really made a difference in the world by showing millions of people an extremely unique perspective unclouded by bias of the War on Terror. He shows readers the loyal Afghan views, by de ...more
Tamim Ansary does what many authors do, and starts with an action packed turning point in his story, in this case an event that every American and most of the world have an intimate to good amount of knowledge of. This is incredibly effective, as it instantly draws the readers in as events begin to unfold. Starting with the point where he was introduced to the media is also a smart move, as readers may have already heard of him based on these events and it immediately allows them to make that co ...more
Apr 06, 2009 S rated it it was ok
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
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
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
Oct 07, 2012 Ahmer rated it really liked it
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
Jul 18, 2013 Nonito Abbu rated it liked it
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
Aug 13, 2012 Ozma rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 25, 2008 Joanne rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
I picked this book up to read because the author also wrote a book on Islamic history that I thought was worthwhile (see ). 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
Aug 19, 2014 Jen rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sep 30, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 09, 2009 Nicolas Shump rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 12, 2015 Tahira rated it really liked it
I surprised myself with this read. While I initially sought to read it as someone who can very closely relate to Ansary's feelings of "straddling two cultures", I found that the social, political and spiritual aspects of the book were far more compelling. West of Kabul, East of New York... in its simplicity was also candid and vulnerable, without being exploitative, or gratuitous. I found it deeply moving. Plus, it was a very quick read.
Nov 30, 2008 Mel rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 03, 2009 Jenny rated it really liked it
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
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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
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