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An American Bride in Kabul

3.24  ·  Rating details ·  784 ratings  ·  157 reviews
Few westerners will ever be able to understand Muslim or Afghan society unless they are part of a Muslim family. Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century. In 1961, when she arrived in Kabul with her Afghan bridegroom, authorities took away her American passport ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 1st 2013 by St. Martin's Press
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Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-stars, first-reads, arcs
When I initially read the giveaway description of "An American Bride in Kabul," I knew I had to have it. What could be more interesting, more intriguing, than a first-hand account of a foreign-born woman's life in Afghanistan in the 1960's? Unfortunately, the actual memoir itself leaves much to be desired, and ends up falling far short of my expectations.

Whereas I thought this would be an in-depth accounting of Phyllis Chesler's time abroad, the truth of the matter is that she only lived in Kabu
Oct 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
The blurb for An American Bride in Kabul by Phyllis Chesler is enticing -”Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century. Chesler found herself unexpectedly trapped in a posh polygamous family, with no chance of escape. She fought against her seclusion and lack of freedom, her Afghan family’s attempts to convert her from Judaism to Islam, and her husband’s wish to permanently tie her to th ...more
Jul 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Repetitive. Her entire experience lasted 10 weeks & was in 1961. The rest of the book is the author's selective excerpts of her successes & her opinions. I admit, she lost me early in the book when she congratulated herself for knowing the term "patriarchal" in 1961 before the women's movement had popularized the word. Are you kidding me?
Talia Carner
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For Phyllis Chesler, a feminist who helped trailblaze the Second Wave Feminism, the personal is political. In this memoir of events that took place over fifty years ago, Prof. Chesler extracts understanding of pluralism and its limitations when it comes to women’s place in society.

In 1961, thirty years before Betty Mahmoody’s story was released in a 1991 film “Not Without My Daughter,” the 20-year-old Phyllis Chesler found herself in similar circumstances. In love for three year with an Afghan m
Deborah Markus
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Actual rating: 3.5 stars. Partly because, yes, I think some of this was poorly edited, and partly because I don't feel right giving a full four stars to any book that needs a warning label. Like the one I'm giving it right now: Do NOT read this if you're already bummed out. It was stupid of me to pick this up right now. But it's an important book, so I'm glad I read it. And, yes, I'm glad I'm done.

If you're already familiar with Phyllis Chesler -- author of vitally important books such as Women
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I was instantly attracted to this book, although I'll admit that I've not heard of Phyllis Chesler before now. I am fascinated by different cultures and this memoir is particularly relevant at the moment, with debates raging in the media regarding Muslim women's rights to wear the niqab and the burqa.

This is not just a memoir, this is an examination of women and their freedom; of culture and of history and Chesler's passion for human rights shines through in her writing.

Phyllis Chesler was an o
Danusha Goska
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
A Collection of Writer's Sketches, Rather Than a Fully Realized Book

Phyllis Chesler's "An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir" is more a collection of a writer's sketches than a fully realized book. While reading this awkwardly spliced-together volume, I asked, "Where are the editors?"

Reading the book is a jarring experience, as the reader is shunted from one topic, and one genre, to another. Approximately forty percent of the book is an annotated bibliography, a listing of books and films about
Kjersti Egerdahl
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
The story is fascinating: the author married an Afghan student she went to college with in New York in the early 1960s. They both loved French New Wave films, New York theater, and other intellectual, highbrow stuff. She married him when she was 20 so she could travel with him to Afghanistan and meet his family, see his country, etc. But she didn't do her research. Her passport was taken at the airport in Kabul and she became an Afghan wife. Not an Afghan citizen, not an American citizen. Her st ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Blah. This book could have been so good but Chesler comes off as a whinging yankee elitist. Frankly she got what she deserved if she thinkss that it is "okay" to wear a string bikini in public.

Self-serving drivel.

Melinda Elizabeth
Apr 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
Oh I didn't expect to have such conflicted feelings about this book.

As the blurb states: Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century." You have expectations that Phyllis was tricked and held captive in an Afghani harem for years and years, having to bide her time in order to break free at last and return to her homeland.

If only that was the story, you'd be at least a little bit justif
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dynamic-reads
The pacing is 'interestingly' fantastic, although, and irrespective of how one might view the subjects covered... a lot of patience may be required to get through reading this book.

Starting out things definitely read comfortably memoirish. Phyllis contains the rebellious spirit; breaking away from her parents like many young girls have done, and may continue to do, to fall in love with, and marry a young man who models a Prince. The thing is, this isn't any Prince, but a man of means not only na
Jul 29, 2013 added it
Shelves: abandoned
The premise of this memoir was intriguing to me. The actual book, not so much. Phyllis Chesler marries Abdul Kareem, who she met in college in the early 60s. Abdul Kareem and Chesler move to Afghanistan to live with his family.

Upon moving to Afghanistan, Chesler is surprised at how women are treated and how she is kept as a prisoner in her own home.

Chesler's time in Afghanistan was extremely short. During this part of the book, Chesler refers to a diary written during that time and for some of
I received an Advance Reader's Edition of this book through a giveaway on Goodreads.

I really want to like this book. I saw it on the giveaways page, read the blurb, and signed up for the giveaway immediately. I thought the topic was interesting, and in that respect, I was right. I knew it was an advanced reader's edition and so I expected the usual typos and such that slip by the editor the first time and that I assume will be fixed in the official publication. But overall, I was disappointed in
Carol R.
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book has much to teach us about how women are valued in much of the world and about Afghanistan's history of treatment of women in particular. It took 50 years before the author felt she could write of her experiences, and while her story is fascinating, she makes it more than that by delving into this history of the country. It slows down the book a bit, and some might find that makes it not worth finishing, but since we are still mired in Afghanistan, I found it helpful.

Here's a synopsis,
J.D. Holman
This was a very interesting book, which is why I finished it. But the writing is terrible. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a writer randomly switches between tenses, or uses past and present interchangeably while talking about the past. I'm still not sure when some key events in the book happened, because of tense changes and an almost stream-of-consciousness way of writing history.

That said, this book gives a view into how life was for a Western woman who married what she thought was a Wes
Sep 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
ARC through Shelf Awareness. Not what I expected, since only the first section of the book is the story of her (very short) time in Afghanistan. And even that section is filled with quotes from other books and authors. I thought there would be more from the back-cover blurb. The rest of the book is a mix of her life since returning and political/historical information and opinions. Seems like some of this part was added just to make this long enough to publish.
All that being said, her story was
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: give-aways, memoir
I won a copy of this book from a goodreads giveaway!

This book is well written but didn't really hold my interest throughout. I will pass it on to someone I think might enjoy it more than I did. Thanks for the free copy!
Apr 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
utterly irrational, unoriginal, and appalling. this didn’t deserve to be published and surely wouldn’t have been were it not opportunistically written in the fervour of the aftermath of 9/11. i do wonder if chesler looks at the current us administration with any sense of responsibility—and self-recognition.

the first section, memoir, is merely poorly written, repetitious, sentimental. sprinkled with quotations that reveal chesler's exoticising imperialistic biases, which are made the more blatant
Beverlee Jobrack
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting look at cultural differences through recent history. Insights into Afghanistan culture and history from an American female point of view.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
The great feminist writer Phyllis Chesler reveals a painful time in her past in this memoir. She fell in love with an Afghanistani man while in college and married him after losing her virginity. That was the way of the early sixties. Marriage followed sex, and women blindly followed men into new lives, trusting that love and smarts would take care of everything. The two had much in common: both were secular outsiders--she as a Jew, he as a foreigner. They shared intellectual and cultural tastes ...more
Sep 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Phyllis Chesler fell in love with a scion of an Afghan family in the 1960s. At 19, she left America, married him and immediately was plunged into another century in a culture foreign to her. Her mother-in-law wants her to convert from Judaism to Islam, or maybe just poison her.

Her husband quickly changes from American-educated world traveler to tribal leader's son (one of many sons) who is fighting shadows of guilt, doubt and inadequacy. He doesn't talk to her except to chide or correct her. He
Apr 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
I had hoped and expected that this book might allow me a glimpse of another culture from the eyes of an individual who is not familiar with that culture. I had hoped that I could journey with the author in better understanding her life immersed in a culture different from my own. However, I was truly disappointed with this book. I do not mean to diminish and disregard Ms. Chesler's obviously traumatic experiences, but really, she did not really tell a story. Unfortunately, the psychological trau ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This is an interesting story of a Jewish woman who married and Afghan Muslim and lived in Kabul for a year in 1960. The first 1/2 of the book is about her marriage and subsequent sequestered life in Kabul. The second half is about her escape, life back in the USA, and what she has learned. The flow could have been a little better. All in all, a decent book.
Nov 19, 2013 rated it liked it
I had heard of Phyllis Chesler, but I did not know she went to Afghanistan as a young bride. My surprise plus the great cover and blurb inspired me to buy it.

It's part memoir, part description of others' (particularly women's) books about Afghanistan, and it spans not only her brief Afghani marriage but her continued relationship with her first husband and his family. The descriptions of her short time in Afghanistan, especially of her memorable first feast (and her privations thereafter), are e
Alex Templeton
May 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was another book I read in my immediate postpartum weeks, which I think made me excuse a lot of its general weirdness. I thought to myself, "Oh, I'm just sleep-deprived, so I'm not picking up on everything I'm meant to be." In hindsight, however, I feel that the narrative was disjointed, repetitive, and in the end, somewhat threadbare. It was clear that Chesler had gone through a life-changing and powerful experience as a wife of an Afghani man living in purdah (basically, at-home exile for ...more
Holly Galus
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
The author does way too much quoting other authors' books. She spends very little time talking about conversations and emotions she experienced in Kabul. When she arrives, she begins to paint the picture of her surroundings, but then she focuses more on laws and rulers.

She often refers to herself as an avid reader and an intellectual, but then is completely surprised by life in Afghanistan. She seems completely taken aback that it is so different than America. I would have been embarrassed to p
Dottie Resnick
May 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
At first I thought this book was fascinating, albeit naive and impulsive. As I read and realized the marriage and arrival in Kabul was in the early 60's, lasting only about 10 weeks and as they say "the rest is commentary" I was frustrated and disappointed. She was an American and a bride thrown into a foreign country, with little knowledge or experience about what she was getting into, but it only lasted 10 weeks! I did continue to read and finish the book, trying to understand more about 'the ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book because I wanted to learn more about Chesler's time in Afghanistan than just the glimpse I saw in an article promoting the book's release. I don't particularly care for her, her writing style, or her whiny way of recollecting the time period--don't get me wrong, she was undoubtedly mistreated and lied to, but her personality comes off as whiny, annoying, and hard to connect with/care about--however, I found her discussions about the history of Afghanistan, the politic ...more
May 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
I went to an event to hear the author speak on her life in Kabul as an American Jew, and found her talk to be very disjointed. Her talk was supposed to be inspirational, as part of a fund-raising evening for Jewish charities (not anything related to Afghanistan.) However, there was nothing inspirational. The topic intrigued me, and I had great hopes for her book, hoping it would give me a picture of her life. Unfortunately, her book was similarly disjointed; not the memoir I anticipated. It was ...more
Cindie Harp
I really loved this book. It has enough narrative to keep it from being too dry with statistics, etc but makes her personal, anecdotal journey seem totally empirical. She was the original (well, the earliest 20th century version who lived to tell the tale in the modern world)" Betty Mahmoody ("Not Without My Daughter"). There is lots to talk about, for book clubs as well as any groups concerned with or interested in the Middle East. Truly, this book shows how Afghanistan, past and present, affec ...more
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Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. She is a best- selling author, a legendary feminist leader, a psychotherapist and an expert courtroom witness. Dr. Chesler has published thousands of articles and, most recently, studies, about honor-related violence including honor killings. She has published many classic works such as Women ...more
“The chowdry, or burqa -- the Saudi, North African, and Central Asian version of the head, face, and body shroud -- is a sensory deprivation isolation chamber. It is claustrophobic, may lead to anxiety and depression, and reinforces a woman's already low self-esteem. It may also lead to vitamin D deficiency diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Sensory deprivation officially constitutes torture and is practiced as such in the world's prisons.” 6 likes
“Encountering gender apartheid and waged slavery shook me to my roots more than half a century ago in Afghanistan. Oh, the women of Afghanistan, the women of the Muslim world. I was no feminist -- but now, thinking back, I see how much I learned there, how clearly their condition taught me to see gender discrimination anywhere and, above all, taught me to see how cruel oppressed women could be to each other. They taught me about women everywhere.” 3 likes
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