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Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil
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Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  22,929 ratings  ·  2,812 reviews
Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors, nurses, and therapists–seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet sh ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by Random House (first published January 1st 2007)
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Dec 06, 2007 rated it did not like it
I saw this book and thought immediately of Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I wanted to buy but didn't see during this trip to the bookstore. It's about a hairdresser who opens a beauty school in Afghanistan, which is hugely important for the local women because it gives them independence from their husbands and fathers, as well as a source of income.

It was a ridiculously easy read. I felt like I was browsing through a woman's blog about her stay in Afghanistan. Which is fine - she had tons of in
Aug 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was kind of sad to see other reviews about this book. It seemed to me like there was a lot of judgment towards the author and negativity about the book. Some of the points had validity, but I guess as an American living in a foreign country I have more sympathy for the author than a lot of people who wrote reviews seem to have. The one thing I will agree with is that it is not extremely eloquent English. I am sure that this book frequently gets compared to "Reading Lolita in Tehran", which is ...more
Jun 20, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: book clubs
Has Life for Afghani Women Improved Because of Rodriguez?

I have mixed feelings about this book. It's easy to read and provides an interesting and informative portrayal of life for the women of Afghanistan. I'm not sorry I read it, but it did drag on in the end and I started counting pages wondering when it would be over. There is one heartbreaking and shocking story after the next, and too many "characters" to wrap one's mind around. This mélange of stories boils down to: Terrorizing Men and Ter

Nov 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: afghanistan
As the Taliban regime falls following the US invasion in the aftermath of 9/11,anAmerican woman leaves her first husband,goes to Afghanistan and opens a hair saloon.Soon,rather surprisingly,she marries an Afghan,and becomes his second wife.

She meets many Afghan women,and relates the hardships of their lives,in a conservative and repressive society.I'm surprised by the negative reviews,this book is pretty interesting.

Whether the author made rational decisions,in going to a worn torn country and t
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
I had a hard time giving this book a rating. I give the women of Afghanistan (whose lives and personal stories are the meat of this book) 5*. Their bravery and determination to survive hardship and abuse in one of the cruelest of cultures is inspiring.

I give the actual writing in this book 2*, as well as the American woman who penned it. The language is very simplistic; it reads like a blog actually. I started to lose interest somewhere around the middle of the book, and especially after the aut
Feb 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on CD and was loving it up to a point then became worried about her informants. I'd read "PRINCES: A TRUE STORY OF LIFE BEHIND THE VEIL IN SAUDI ARABIA" years back and its author was extremely discret, so I compared this book to Rodriguez' and wondered immediately about her telling so much detail that could be harmful to the women of the book. NPR has a great recap. of Rodriguez essentially selling out her informants and the alleged betrayal.
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chicklit, islam
This book was... conceptually interesting, but poorly written.

-- Edited 08.08.08 --

I can't believe this was all I had to say about this book. First, just after I read it, I was only mildly annoyed. The author is an incompetent, brash, selfish, idiotic woman who made no effort to even pretend to respect or assimilate into the culture she encountered. She bashed her way into Kabul, first perhaps with good intentions, and then she just proceeded to ignore every cultural more that she could. Her dec
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so much better than I thought it would be. When I first picked it up, I thought, "huh? a beauty school in Afghanistan? Don't those poor people need water and electricity more than a mani/pedi?" I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author had a fabulous and unique story to tell in an interesting and well-written way. Like so many people who end up in the "development" world, she simply saw a need and set out to contribute what she could to improve people's lives. Throughout t ...more
Again, I'd be a kitten-murdering sadist if I gave this one star, so I'm going with two. I would have loved to read a short article about the Kabul Beauty School and I'm abstractly interested in the project, but the writing made me want to rip out my own fingernails with hedge clippers. Really, it's my own fault--this book is supposed to be accessible because the writing style is conversational and feels like you're just chatting with your hairdresser, and I should have remembered before taking t ...more
Petra-X Off having adventures
This is the third book I've read in three days and all three were on different views of humanity and improving lives and none were even slightly alike but all were 5-star books. Proper review coming up... sometime. ...more
Mar 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: EVERY WOMAN!!!!
Recommended to Kristen by: My Mom
This book was much more than I thought it would be. I learned so much about daily life for women in Afghanistan. I was horrifed to read of the way they are treated and disvalued. I think every woman in the world should read this book. Wow! What a wake up call. Warning: there is some sexual content in the first chapter as the author describes the traditional marriage consummation ceremony, but I felt (and I'm rather picky) that it was absolutely necessary for the book. There is also one f-word, w ...more
May 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
As a recommendation from a good friend, I wanted to whole heartedly like this book, but I just couldn't. The writing—as noted by nearly all reviewers—is atrocious. The author is at best obnoxious.

When my mother-in-law noticed this book at my house and asked me about it, I had a hard time putting my finger on exactly what was wrong with it. But, the introduction to Julia Child's My Life in France cleared things up for me. As she professes her love of France and Paris, she says "I devoted myself
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the quality of the writing isn't exceptional, this memoir offered an excellent look into the lives of Afghan women, Kabul culture, the ex-pat community and Afghan beauty concepts. What I loved most was reading about how the author, a fairly average but passionate individual helped so many abused Afghan women. Rodriguez used the craft she knew best, hairdressing and beauty, and through much trial and tribulation, created a means to liberate many Afghan women from the ties that bound them. L ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Steph for

Deborah Rodriguez is a beautician from Michigan who went over to Afghanistan after September 11th to help in any way she could. She quickly fell in love with the country and wanted to reestablish the Afghan beauticians who went out of existence when the Taliban took over. Along with help from others, she opened a beauty school where she trained Afghan women to become beauticians who could then open up their own beauty salons.

This amazing true story is heart
Kathryn in FL
Feb 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
I read this when it was published 14 years ago. Although lots has happened since and at least 1000 books have been read, I do remember a few impressions I was left with.

I really admire Ms. Rodriguez for her efforts to help the Afghan people. She came across as very compassionate and I can see how she would have been quite popular. I found the entire story uplifting and inspirational. I can't add more than that. I wonder what her impressions of her experiences then and today would be considered.
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it

This was an interesting read. It was a reading group pick and sparked controversy in the group discussion as it did in the world.

Debbie Rodriguez is the daughter of a hairdresser from Holland, MI. I have spent some time in that town. My Top 40 cover band used to play at the Holiday Inn there in the early 1980s. The first wet burrito I ever ate was at a Mexican Restaurant in Holland. It is a small, mostly blue collar central Michigan town. Debbie is one of those women who do before they think and
Jan 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
I LOVED this book. It was an easy read with short pieces of her story as a hairdresser trying to empower women in Kabul by training them in her beauty salon with grants from various charitable sources. It was a fascinating read from the American perspective. There were no altruistic answers. It was nice to have a book like this written by a bright blue-collar person instead of the educated graduate degree person. She is down-to-earth and real. It seemed to be delightfully honest. I admire her br ...more
Jan 14, 2009 rated it it was ok
The stories of the women in this book are heartbreaking. My problem is that the author even tells them. What happens if you talk about helping a woman fake her virginity on her wedding night, and the woman's husband finds out? Apparently, word of the book has leaked out in Afghanistan, a place where women can be imprisoned for leaving their husbands. See this link, here -

I am not going to question the author's motives because I think she is a sincere per
Apr 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
Deborah Rodriguez travels from her home in Holland, Michigan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. Not being a medical professional, she was at first a little lost on how she could be of assistance to the people of Afghanistan. Once she realized that her skills as a beautician could be utilized in Afghanistan her idea for Kabul Beauty School was born. I have to give a lot of credit to the author for her courage and tenacity to actually bring the dream of the beauty school ...more
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mish by: Krystal
A friend asked me if I wanted to read this book. We have a book swap going among a few friends, and I haven’t borrowed any books from this particular friend before. I thought I’d be polite and say ‘Yes’ but not really knowing what it’s about. I initially thought it might be about Kabul beauty tips/techniques, and yes part of it was at very start, but it is so much more than that.

Debbie tells her story of when she left her family at Michigan to move permanently to Afghanistan, to give hope and in
N.L. Riviezzo
I would have never picked up this book if it hadn't been for a woman in my book club who insisted that it be our September read. The author of this quick to read but a complete waste of time book is arrogant, naive and full of herself. Yes, every culture has its assholes and yes, at that time, Afghanistan seemed to have more than its fair share but by no means, does that make annoying Americans - with their own issues - more superior. For all the bitching that the author does about Afghani men a ...more
Oct 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
I read this book in my continuing "read more nonfiction" quest. I have to say that it didn't really feel like nonfiction, and I still can't decide whether I liked it or not. I definitely have some different perspectives and values from the author, and at times I would think "Wow, she seems like quite a character!" but I was so impressed by how hard she was working to ensure a future for the Afghan women.

In case you're not familiar with this, it's the story of an American hairdresser who went to
Mar 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
karen reyes
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Similar to Reading Lolita in Theran, it gives you insight into the complexity of a small country within the Middle East, particularyly in the town of Kabul, Afghanastan. What the women there go through is amazing! Afghan women are subjected to so much oppression and submission it is mind boggling there isn't some kind of uprising against the culture. I am only speaking as an American woman, where my rights and freedoms are truly protected - yet somewhat undervalued. I ...more
Must have been a great experience.
I don't know if i prefered this or the novel The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.
Wished it had had more photos.
Barbara (The Bibliophage)
This was such an enjoyable memoir!

Deborah Rodriguez left a horrid marriage to help women halfway across the globe in Afghanistan. She didn't understand the culture or speak the language. But her heart was deeply committed to the Kabul Beauty School project and the women she trained.

Becoming a beautician offered these Afghan women an opportunity to support their families, often including a large extended family. Many of them spent years away from Kabul while the Taliban was in control. They're i
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gender, islam
It is what it is.

* Glimpse into the lives of women in Kabul post-2001, so for that, worth the read. The book states that being a hairdresser is the only profession for women in Kabul acceptable to nearly all husbands, because men aren't allowed in salons, so it's one place where women can be "free" to earn a decent living, despite being frequently accused of being prostitutes at a brothel.
* So sad! All of the women affiliated with the school were abused at home and in public in some way because
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: airport-books
Well, this probably should go on the Life Is Too Short shelf, because I didn't really finish it... but then, the book didn't really end, either. It just kind of trailed off. And so did my interest. So, we're even.
It was a very "lite" read (I agree with reviewers who said it was more like a blog on paper than a book) and there were things about it that I liked. I liked how the author brought out certain resonances between her own past experience as the emotionally and physically abused wife of a
I have mixed feelings about this book. I read it beofre hearing about the reactions of the women in the novel (though Rodriguez does seem to address this in the afterword). The subject matter is interesting (I picked this up because my class is reading The Places In Between next year).

Yet, the writing isn't that good. I think Rodriguez is trying to be honest with the reader. She isn't frightened to make herself look stupid, though some of her choices are mind boggling. It just seemed like a who
Jul 26, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: read2007
I enjoyed parts of this book very much. It was interesting to see and understand the lives of women in Afganistan. It was also interesting to see what a difference a beauty school made in their lives as they developed a skill to support themselves.

What I did not like was the author. I do admire what she did and the strength it must have taken. However, she was whiny and annoying and spent way to much time talking about herself and her over dramatized life.

Overall it was not that well written an
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Deborah Rodriguez is a hairdresser, a motivational speaker, and the author of the bestselling memoir Kabul Beauty School.
She spent five years teaching at and later directing the Kabul Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon in Afghanistan. Rodriguez also owned the Oasis Salon and the Cabul Coffee House.
She currently lives in Mexico.

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