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Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords, and One Woman's Journey Through Afghanistan

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  343 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Afghan-American journalist Fariba Nawa delivers a revealing and deeply personal explorationof Afghanistan and the drug trade which rules the country, from corruptofficials to warlords and child brides and beyond. KhaledHosseini, author of The Kite Runner and AThousand Splendid Suns calls Opium Nation “an insightful andinformative look at the global challenge of Afghan drug ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published November 8th 2011 by Harper Perennial (first published March 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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Carol Douglas
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Opium Nation is an excellent book. Fariba Nawa is a superb journalist. Yes, I mean both of those superlatives. I've read some of Nawa's U.S.-based journalism about Muslims in this country, and it's original. For instance, she wrote about how some mosques are not segregating women and are giving them a bigger role.
The picture in Afghanistan is not so pretty. Nawa, whose family fled when the Russians were dropping bombs on her city (one hit her elementary school), grew up in the United States bu
Paul Vos Benkowski
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Do you want to know what is going on in Afghanistan? So does everyone. Even folks who live in Afghanistan want to know what the hell is going on. Fariba Nawa was born in Afghanistan and moved to the US when the Soviets tried to take over the country in 1979. She is now a journalist who has traveled back to new country and the remains of her memory of that country. Opium Nation is the rare non fiction book that is both a general history of a region and a specific history of a woman returning to l ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book needs a MAP. And a glossary. And a timeline. The author skips back and forth in time so frequently I couldn't keep track of what year each section (within a chapter) took place.

Despite frequently having to stop and Google a term, or a location, or getting confused on if it was 2001 or 2004 or 2003 etc, this book gives a lot of insight into a very complex country - particularly the difficulties with the opium trade and how eradicating poppy fields is not the answer. The author is right
Dec 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
The information is nice, and the interviews and viewpoints are interesting, but the whole 'personal narrative' was a little saccharine sometimes, I feel like the reader would be aware without the author having to make it obvious. Gets really cheesy at the end, and the cheese doesn't seem worth the extra dead trees.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most touching yet informative book I've read about Afghanistan in a while. Probably at the top of my favorite books about Afghanistan. I think the books takes the audience on a journey that few foreign journalists or Afghan journalist could take them on. Many of the books I've read about Afghanistan are either the account of a foreigner introducing the country to other foreigners as he/she learns the country on a few-month-long trip or an Afghan attempting to convey the emotio ...more
Oct 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Once I got used to the writing style, I really got absorbed in the information. This is one woman's journey through Afghanistan, talking to opium farmers, traffickers, addicts, families of farmers and traffickers and even government officials who are involved in the drug trade. Some are involved both as traffickers and informants. Taken at face value, Fariba Nawa's story explains very well why the U.S. and allies cannot really make headway in training Afghan leadership for democratic style gover ...more
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a book worth reading,but it was not one which I could truly connect with. The book is tied together with the on-going story on a young "opium bride" name Darya,yet I found this story oddly uncompelling and uninteresting. The child never speaks for herself and in fact only physically appears a couple of times. Darya feels less like an individual person with whom we can empathize and more like a composite,or a projection of the author's own emotions and inner struggles. The book would have ...more
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is about one women's journey through Afghanistan. Fariba explains how Opium, which is another word for drugs, originated around Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East, she also talks about how Opium trade, can cause girls as young as the age of 10, to get married, because of their family debt towards the opium trade, they are often known as Opium Brides. Fariba also talks about her families's migration from her native country of Afghanistan to America, because of the conflict a ...more
Mar 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I started reading this book because I knew that the author was speaking at the TEDx Monterey conference I was attending. As a speaker, she was compelling and charismatic; as a writer, she borders on cold and detached, even though the subject - and her homecoming to Afghanistan - is emotionally-charged.

The reality of child brides and Fariba's interactions with one such bride, Darya, do not play as much of a role in the book as I had anticipated. The latter two elements in her book title - drug lo
Tonya Burrows
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Lots of great information on Afghanistan--the people, culture, history--but not quite what I had been hoping for when I picked up the book. Wanted more info on the drug trade and child brides and a little less family introspection. I'll admit, I ended up cherry-picking the chapters I wanted to read.

Not to say it's a bad book. It's not. It's very engaging--at times tense and at others, almost dreamy. If I had more time, I would have loved to read the whole thing cover to cover and probably would
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fariba Nawa has written a fascinating book about her return to her homeland. I hadn't any idea there were more languages besides Arabic that read right to left - but Farsi and Pashto are that way.

As a newswriter, Nawa seemed to be better able to divulge information than the Balkan authors overall have offered me.

I especially liked this book, even if the topic was horrible, too - girls sold/married to drug lords for opiates.
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book provided great insight into Afghanistan from the perspective of a native-born woman. I really enjoyed how she described the two worlds, American and Afghanistan. I was intrigued by the power play between drug lords and government; however it did drone on a little too much. All said and done I would highly recommend this book.
Yo Reader
Apr 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book starts with the author and then takes you into the whole aspects of drug trade and the author does a good job on talking about how drug trade can be both good and back, that was interesting.
Anybody interesting in human trafficking and child abuse should also read the book!
Ilaha Omar
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Extremely informative read on the underbelly of the drug trade epidemic in Afghanistan. Harsh realities of government affiliation, civilian addiction and the child bride victims caught in the middle. The world should know the facts!
Lori Watson koenig
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book really helped me understand Afghanistan and the people who live there. This was a painful book to read sometimes and I admire the author very much for her courage and clear vision.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A bitter sweet end to a lengthy book. I especially loved learning about the different areas and political occupations of Afghanistan...up to and including Russia's, America's and the Taliban's role in the country up until 2011 (when the book ends.) It is a autobiography of the author's experience growing up, leaving and returning to Afghanistan. The main focus always returns to the affect opium had on the country with specific focus on the women affected. (I image the focus on one specific girl/ ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Very interesting information and I learned a lot about life in Afghanistan through the wars and how people coped, however, this could have been much better. It is terribly disorganized and the author constantly jumps all over the place between people, locations, dates, her personal life and random facts. It is very confusing and hard to stay focused on the interesting bits sprinkled throughout. It's like the author typed up a great book and then shuffled all the paragraphs into a random order. W ...more
Aaron A
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I, honestly, kinda like this book. It always made me ask, 'What's going to happen to Fariba Nawa?' I was surprised when the woman who embarks on this journey through Afghanistan was actually the author. Upon reading this book, you start to realize where people get these stereotypes of middle easterners, while you notice where some racist jokes, in which you hear, originate. When you start off reading this book, you think you know what goes on in Afghanistan. However, this book causes you to thin ...more
Jennifer Hollins
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m not sure about the way the book is written. As others have pointed out, it can be a little choppy between the flashbacks and present day. However, it offers great insight on the opium trade and the role of the US. It will definitely make you think about how US foreign policy effects other countries.
Zo Pop
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very insightful overview of Afghanistan and its people. The book is very easy to read and, despite its slow pace, it is a very pleasant reading.
Daniel Suhajda
Aug 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Didn’t finish. I got the point around page 200. It is a complicated place and opium is the cash crop. Sounds like hell on earth.
Shirley Metelmann
Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it
A good well written book ..
I agree that it needs a map trying to find some of the places was almost impossible
Enjoyed the read but struggled to get through it as some of it was quite shocking
Life changes for all of us but always due to world.
Thank heaven for a peaceful country
Dec 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Part personal memoir, part exploration into the industry that the author feels is holding Afghanistan back from recovering from years and years of occupation. Lots of educated people fled the soviet invasion, many people aren't educated now; the facts she puts forth regarding literacy in areas of the country are disheartening. A root cause of lots of the trouble? Opium, which doesn't require much water and the industry has built up through the years of turmoil. It's made some rich and others int ...more
Cecelia Hightower
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: bill
Bill finished reading "Opium Nation" by Fariba Nawa. A non-fiction by a woman that left Afghanistan in 1982 when she was eight years old. Her parents decided to flee when Russia entered and they wanted to emigrate to Germany or the U.S. They ended up coming to America and she states she always felt she had left some part of herself in Afghanistan and wanted to reclaim it.

The book tells about her experiences when she returned to Afghanistan and what she discovered about the drug trade and how pe
Feb 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The narrative out of Afghanistan is mostly dominated by Western authors and journalists. There is barely any input in the mainstream Western discourse about Afghanistan from actual Afghans. Fariba Nawa is one of those rare Afghan voices who understands both the West and Afghanistan, and therefore can write with an uncommon degree of legitimacy and intimate understanding of both worlds.

"Opium Nation" displays a cultural insight that generally doesn't come from "parachute journalists." Fariba's b
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Opium Nation is an interesting and informative book as it gives a better insight and a clearer, more accurate account of the drug trade in Afghanistan and the region and how it impacts ordinary Afghans, particularly women and children, including child brides . All this useful information is beautifully interwoven with the author's memoir and her life before and after leaving Afghanistan. Her sharing of personal experiences are both engaging and worthwhile for those who want to have a closer look ...more
Jan 06, 2013 rated it liked it
This book is wonderful for giving an insider's observations on the war and opium trade in Afghanistan. She was born and raised in Afghanistan and incorporates her personal experiences in the book, along with historical facts.
Like a couple other reviews mentioned, a map and timeline would've been helpful while I was reading this book. There are many times where the author jumps forward and back in time that I would find myself lost and need to reread a section to orient myself.
Overall, a very i
Jul 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Very well written journalism. Delves heavily into the repatriation of the Afghan author, and also into the prospects of post-war Afghanistan. Does an excellent job of documenting the struggles of Afghan women, and the innocence of most involved in the opium trade. Also documents the extent of corruption in the Karzai government.

However, the author's views on drugs and drug prohibition are frequently ill-informed. All in all, works better as a book about Afghanistan than a book about Opium. Enjoy
Jul 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great read. Thoroughly captivating book. The author has done a phenomenal job in walking the reader through her journeys into Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, searching for herself and Daria. Fearless in her writing, Fariba has done an exceptional job of portraying her soul searching sojourn along with the nail biting episodes of escaping the Taliban in her quest to find a child bride. Kudos! Wished there was a map though, to follow along with her journey.
Pallavi Rajkhowa
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
A very insightful book and gives a vivid desciption of some of the issues facing Afghanistan. This book inspired me to do a painting named, ' Where the poppies bloom', which depicts the nexus between heroine and war.!/...
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Fariba Nawa, an award-winning Afghan-American journalist, covers a range of issues and specializes in immigrant and Muslim communities in the United States and abroad. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area but has traveled extensively to the Middle East and South Asia. She lived and reported from Afghanistan from 2002 to 2007, and witnessed the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. S ...more

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