Author Jenny Nordberg began to hear hints of something hidden in Afghanistan. Hidden within a culture that values men over women, and the birth of a bAuthor Jenny Nordberg began to hear hints of something hidden in Afghanistan. Hidden within a culture that values men over women, and the birth of a baby boy is something to celebrate while the birth of a baby girl can lead to shame and public ridicule, there is a hidden tradition carried out by some families, whereby young girls are raised as boys. These girls are referred to as bacha posh.
There are different motivations for having a daughter live as a bacha posh. Some do it in order to improve their reputation and standing after having only daughters, while others do it for the convenience of having a "son" to assist with things like running errands and escorting the other daughters in the family (in a society that forbids women and young girls to go out unsupervised without a male present). And yet others do it for the benefit of the girl, in order to allow her to have the experience and confidence that comes with living as a boy. They are entitled to sit with their father and his friends, to work, to play in the street. There are special benefits allowed young boys that girl's are not permitted.
There have been attempts in the past to change the culture surrounding the subjugation of women. The royal couple Amanollah Khan and his queen Soraya in the '20s fought for women's rights, pushing for their education and banning their sale into marriage. However amid a backlash and the threat of a coup, Amanollah Khan had to abdicate in 1929.
Here in America we tend to oversimplify this issue. We think Afghanistan simply needs to change their culture of making women second-class citizens who live at the whim of the men in their lives. However we don't understand the complexity of the issue, in a society that views the years before puberty of both men and women as simply "preparation for procreation". Their economy is essentially based heavily on the ability to sell daughters into marriage and to form tribal alliances.
At one point, the author asks people about the differences between men and women. Men give a list of varied responses, such as women are more "sensitive" or more "emotional". But the majority of the women give the same answer: freedom.
Which led me to think: In the West, we focus on things like women being forced to cover their heads. However it is so much simpler than that. The women would happily cover their heads as an expression of their faith, if only they could have freedom: the freedom to choose to leave the house, to travel, to go to school, to choose whether or not to marry and whom to marry, whether or not to have children. This is why every Afghan woman wishes she were a man. Men have freedom; women do not.
My final word: I absolutely loved this book! It made me realize how complicated this issue is. You can't just say, "Women should be treated equally..." and expect that is it. This is a cultural issue that has developed over thousands of years, and has economical implications as well as many other things. It is something that needs to be slowly changed, and it is something that needs to be changed from within the Afghan people and culture, and not from the outside from the West. The author uses the stories of multiple girls who have lived as bacha posh to illustrate the benefits and downfall of this practice. The book was well done, although the transition between subjects was sometimes difficult to follow, and you'd have to try and figure out who was being written about now.
And while Afghanistan is a hard world for a woman to exist, it isn't much better for the men of Afghanistan.
This was an unquestionably fascinating read, and a favorite of 2014! ...more
This story follows the life of Morayo, a young girl growing up in the city of Ibadan. Her little sister Eniayo is albino, and she has to deal with a cThis story follows the life of Morayo, a young girl growing up in the city of Ibadan. Her little sister Eniayo is albino, and she has to deal with a certain amount of ridicule and discrimination due to her condition, especially since it is believed that albino children bring bad luck, or are a symbol of God's punishment on the family.
There is a tragic event involving Morayo and her cousin Bros T which leaves her world shaken, but she recovers with the help of her aunt Morenike, who herself suffered a tragic event as a teenager.
I loved the way this book gave me a taste of the culture and lifestyles of the people of Nigeria. There is a formality to relationships, and I found myself sort of enamored with the way that the younger people bow down and prostrate themselves in greeting and respect to their elders. Even the way that wives and husbands refer to one another.
My final word: A sweet and tragic exploration of the Nigerian culture through the eyes of a young girl growing into a woman....more
This book follows a young Japanese girl Yoshi, and various characters that either directly or indirectly impact her life, which is shattered by the USThis book follows a young Japanese girl Yoshi, and various characters that either directly or indirectly impact her life, which is shattered by the US napalm attack on Tokyo in 1945.
The bombing was truly tragic and barbaric. However I do know that the Japanese government/army was out of control. They'd become greedy bullies, trying to get more and more land and resources, by any means necessary. I've read about what they did in Nanking, and it was hideous.
I have loved this book from page one. I love the ease with which the author writes, making it an easy yet captivating read. And perhaps part of the reason that I love this book is that so much of it takes place in Japan-- a place that I grew up hearing about, given that my family lived there for three years before I was born. I grew up speaking common Japanese phrases and eating with chopsticks, and surrounded by Japanese decorations and dolls and books. So this book was a very comfortable fit for me.
I loved so many of the characters. Yoshi was a treasure-- smart, beautiful and hopeful. Cam was a charmer. Billy Reynolds and Cam's brother Mike were all likable. There's also some difficult characters-- those who have good and bad sides to them. Hana, Kenji, Anton and his wife. This book is full of complicated characters that can't be easily characterized as "good" or "bad" or "likable"-- although some do seem to turn "bad" over time.
Yoshi's mother Hana doted on her when she was a girl, thinking she was absolutely perfect. But time and perhaps mental illness began to wear her down, and Yoshi found herself alone, even when her mother was there.
My final word: The author has won me over with her writing. Her description of Japan, the people and the culture is beautiful! Yoshi is a strong character, not giving in and losing herself to all that life has dealt her. A number of wonderful, positive male characters as well (sometimes books with strong female characters portray men as villains or dolts). This book brings the tragedy of the Tokyo bombing (as well as other areas of Japan) to light-- a revelation for those unfamiliar with this time period. I think this whole period in history has been downplayed in our schools, to make the US appear to be victims of the Pearl Harbor bombing without really recognizing the hideousness of our own deeds perpetrated on civilians following that event.
This book briefly covers the life of Fahim Fazli in Afghanistan, but mostly covers his escape from Afghanistan as a refugee, his struggle to achieve sThis book briefly covers the life of Fahim Fazli in Afghanistan, but mostly covers his escape from Afghanistan as a refugee, his struggle to achieve success in Hollywood, and his desire to serve both his adopted country and his native land as a linguist with the Marines in Afghanistan.
Born in Afghanistan, Fahim found himself attempting to survive in a country where he risked relocation to Russia for "re-education". At 12 years of age, he was living in a city invaded by Russia. He, his father and his younger brother had not heard from his mother, older brother or sisters for four years, as they had already escaped to the U.S. Fahim's father Jamil made the decision to take his boys to Pakistan, with hopes of later making it to America.
It was a trek fraught with danger, and there were some near misses. Much of their escape was done on foot, guided by a "coyote", a person who guides people out of the country for a fee. In Peshawar, Fahim found himself faced with armed Taliban fighters patrolling the streets with AK-47s. Once in Peshawar, Fahim was eager to get to America.
You feel for the woman who gave birth to Fahim. Born in a male-dominated country, married off at the age of 16, she is described as an intelligent and driven woman who wanted to be a doctor in a country where women are doomed to lives as housewives and maids and never anything more-- without choice. A woman with strong opinions and desires, she was always at odds with Fahim's father, and there was much yelling and fighting in the Fazli household when Fahim was growing up.
However the woman was no saint. Raised in a culture that believes that "Number One Son" is the favorite, and "Number Two Son" is the "Miserable Son", she could be brutal and cruel in her words to her second son Fahim at times. But there was a lot about her to respect, and she was very beloved by her son.
Fahim was raised with a heavy hand, as is common in Afghanistan. I remember author Andrea Busfield once describing in her book Born Under a Million Shadows (which takes place in Afghanistan) that "...in the streets the adults beat boys, the boys beat smaller boys, and everyone beats donkeys and dogs."
My final word: Fahim brings better understanding to the issue of the Taliban and what it has been like under their regime. The writing is very simple and straightforward-- not flowery or overly expressive-- but the storytelling is engaging and enlightening, exposing a side of Hollywood with which I was unfamiliar... the "in"-side. Fahim's story offers more clarity on the people of Afghanistan, how the Taliban came to power, and what refugees would go through in order to get their families to safety. Fahim is a strong man of conviction, yet kind and affable, and his warmth comes through in the telling of his story, albeit the writing style can be a little stiff, possibly due to him being assisted by military writer Michael Moffett. However I found the book to be a worthwhile read....more
This book starts with a murder, and elderly Lucy is a prime suspect. Her daughter Patty begins to question her motherI'd probably give this 4.5 stars.
This book starts with a murder, and elderly Lucy is a prime suspect. Her daughter Patty begins to question her mother's relationship with the victim, and through flashbacks we get to know Lucy as a young girl and to learn about her mother's past relationship with the victim, as well as other secrets.
Lucy as an adult is reserved and dignified, and she is loved and respected by her daughter Patty. However Patty doesn't really know much about her mother's past.
But as the story goes on, we are led through Lucy's past, and the horrors she experienced during WWII. From losing her father, to the government ordering all Japanese-Americans to interment camps, and all of the horrors of the camp, these are all revealed through the story.
As a child, Lucy was sweet and smart. But she was also confused as the world around her changed. Confused by the animosity of friends at school, the teachers, the world at large, as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and all Japanese Americans had to bear the doubt of their own chosen country.
Lucy's mother Miyako was a very beautiful, but a very flawed, emotionally unstable and dependent woman. It seems she married her husband in hopes that such a kind and tolerant man, and the quiet and stable life he offered, would secure her against a world she found overwhelming. She was often emotionally absent from Lucy's life, and Lucy grew to idolize and adore her father, as many young girls do. So when Lucy loses her father, she loses her bearings. And the next thing she knows, their family is being uprooted and forced to leave everything behind to move to a military-style camp in Manzanar, just for being Japanese.
Family friend Aiko is sort of an adoptive aunt to Lucy. When she loses her father, it is strong Aiko, her mother's best friend, that moves in and keeps the family afloat.
During her years in Manzanar, Lucy grows into a beautiful young lady, the spitting image of her beautiful mother, and she meets and experiences first love with a young man by the name of Jessie.
I don't want to give too much away, so I won't reveal too much. But there were some very sweet moments, but there were also things later on that felt cut too short. I feel as if I were a little short-changed with one or two points in the storyline, but overall it was a fine story.
I enjoyed this story. It is gently written, but realistic and hard-hitting. This provocative topic has recently become very popular, and there are a lot of books coming out now about the Japanese internment camps, and this is my first to read. And a fine introduction to this topic it was. This is a shameful period in America's history, and I can only pray that we never again repeat such mistreatment of our own citizens.
Lucy as a young girl is an engaging child that pulls at your heart strings. You want to protect her as a young girl. As an adult, you want to free her from her past.
My final word: This story wound up being more of a mystery than I expected. You get glimpses of things early on that slowly play out and reveal themselves, such as Lucy's scars. When you learn how beautiful she was as a girl, you wonder what happened to scar her? And who was this man from her past that is now dead? Who is the father of her daughter Patty? And then right in the end, in the final pages of the story...WHAM-O!...plot twist! And then another! And another! There were a few very nice, unexpected twists at the end that left this story very satisfying. This was definitely a worthy read....more
An anthropologist goes on a pilgrimage across northeast Africa after the death of his wife, coming to terms with her loss and wondering whether he reaAn anthropologist goes on a pilgrimage across northeast Africa after the death of his wife, coming to terms with her loss and wondering whether he really even knew her at all.
It's interesting that I can't tell you the anthropologist's name, as I don't believe it is ever mentioned in the book. He is simply referred to as "he" and "him", or by the native word "ferenji" used for Westerners. Likewise his wife is simply referred to as "she".
This story is at once very simple, getting to the heart of the matter, without excessive flourish or glamor, and yet it is complex, winding around on itself. There isn't a great amount of dialogue in the book, as the majority of the story is self-discovery and the discovery of truth. All of his interaction in the story is with the Africans he encounters and stays with during his journey, and they are a simple and quiet people, not given to excessive chatting.
There are some interesting transitions between chapters where bits of the Dasse culture are revealed. The author writes of "rituals that surround death and dying", allowing a glimpse into Dasse society, and giving the reader a better understanding of these people that the anthropologist and his wife lived with and studied.
After his artist wife dies from an unnamed disease that sounds suspiciously like AIDS, the anthropologist begins to look through her journals and questions arise, causing him to embark on a trek back to the village of his friend Abudo, in hopes of finding answers.
My final word: This was an enjoyable read, and went fairly quickly. The author is very adept at bringing you into the story with lovely description that isn't overdone, and a writing style that can flow from verbose to rather clipped, the anthropologist varying from very logical reasoning that examines his own life with scientific precision to reflecting on beautifully sensitive and emotional moments with his wife in their life together. A lovely little story....more
A modern day woman learns of the love story and horror kept quiet in the history of her grandparents. We discover along with her of how her grandmotheA modern day woman learns of the love story and horror kept quiet in the history of her grandparents. We discover along with her of how her grandmother Elizabeth Endicott traveled to Aleppo, Syria with her own father to offer relief to Armenian refugees. What they find when they arrive is a genocide in progress as Turks and Syrians attempt to erase the Armenian race from the earth. While in Aleppo, Elizabeth meets Armenian engineer Armen and falls in love. The novel follows their stories as their modern day granddaughter unravels their past decades later.
I am ashamed to admit that I was unaware of the Armenian genocide, which resulted in the deaths of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians between the years of 1915 and 1923. It's heartbreaking to think of what happened to these people, the suffering of those who died, and the haunting memories carried by those who survived.
I thought the format of this book was an interesting concept. Instead of simply telling the story of Elizabeth and Armen, to have it told through their granddaughter as she discovers what happened to them in their youth. Elizabeth and Armen were very believable. The granddaughter was sort of forgettable-- a bit of a quiet voice narrating and guiding the story, but Elizabeth and Armen were meant to be the stars of the story, and I found them to be real and solid and moving. They brought the horrors of the Armenian genocide to life.
Caught up in Elizabeth and Armen's story are the stories of many other characters, including an Armenian refugee by the name of Nevart and her young charge Hatoun. Two survivors of the genocide (at least they survived during the period that Elizabeth knew them), their own story is beautiful and stirring and heart wrenching. And then there is the underlying story of the images of the refugees, captured on film plates and being smuggled to safety to assure that they survive the slaughter, to reveal to the world the truth of what is going in Aleppo. And let us not forget the tragic story of Armen's wife Karine and infant daughter.
My final word: This story was a mixture of sweetness, tragedy and horror. Elizabeth and Armen were characters that I could really care about. This novel wraps a history lesson up in an intriguing story. A robust novel full of flavors, and I will undoubtedly be tasting of author Chris Bohjalian's other works. Definitely recommended!...more
Fawad is a charming boy. Smart, good-humored, brave and strong, you find yourself praying that life goes well for him. I mean, things are stacked agaiFawad is a charming boy. Smart, good-humored, brave and strong, you find yourself praying that life goes well for him. I mean, things are stacked against him, and you really want him to find a way to have everything he dreams of.
This book portrays the complex and dark beauty of Afghanistan's face, as well as its dark underbelly. At times you find yourself in awe at the kindness of the people, the love they have for their country, their humor and passion. At other times you cringe at the cruelty, the blatant disregard for humanity, the ugly complexity of their hierarchical and tribal society and its tenuous relationship with surrounding countries, primarily Pakistan.
This is a country that has spent much of its existence "occupied", under the rule of some governing power that is unwanted. There is such a dichotomy in the rich tapestry of Afghanistan. I just can't get over the complexity found in its simplicity. Or is it simplicity in its complexity? My mind is shaky with exhaustion in trying to wrap itself around it.
This story has a wealth of wonderful characters, from housemates Georgie, James and May, streetmates Spandi and Jamilla, the dark and tormented beauty of Haji Khan (who himself could represent for me the country of Afghanistan), the hope of Shir Ahmad, the quirky and endearing character of Pir Hederi, and even Pir the Madman.
In the end, I'm left with hope. Hope for Fawad and the realization of his dreams, hope for Jamilla and her happiness and freedom from the tyranny of men, hope for impossible romance, hope for compassion amidst such cruelty and beauty amid such horror-- hope for Afghanistan.
Andrea Busfield-- I think I'm in love with you......more