Over the next decade, my interests drifted to other subjects, including college textbooks. Then, in 2014, The Underground Girls of Kabul is published and I get my hands on a copy in 2016. I decide to read it, or rather listen to it, in this case. This was an educational read for me as a woman raised in a western country where I don't have to conceal my identity as a woman just to take advantage of the same benefits provided to men.
Jenny Nordberg, born in Sweden, is the journalist who broke the story of "bacha posh" which fueled the writing and publication of The Underground Girls of Kabul. From the Goodreads description, "A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as "dressed up like a boy") is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world." This is a common practice in Afghanistan's patriarchal culture where the birth of a son is reason for celebration and a daughter is often mourned or seen as a misfortune.
Nordberg eloquently tells the stories of four women in The Underground Girls of Kabul. From the description of the novel on the website, "The book is anchored by vivid female characters who bring this ancient phenomenon to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian whose youngest daughter is chosen to pose as her only son; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and resists her parents’ attempts to turn her into a woman; Shukria, who was forced to marry and have three children after living for twenty years as a man; and Shahed, an Afghan special forces soldier, still in disguise as an adult man."
Set during one of America's most violent and longest wars, readers will gain some insight into the world of Afghan women and girls who make daily sacrifices in a culture set against them. The women portrayed in this novel represent generations of women who were able to live as the desired sex for a time, only to be forced into marriage and childbirth once they've hit puberty. Or if they've been able to continue to hide into adulthood, they live in fear of being discovered.
This novel captured my attention from the beginning, making me hang onto every word and not want to turn it off. The desire to learn more is why it only took me 4 days to finish a 10 hour recording. Nordberg's extensive journalistic research through her travels and interviews were obvious and showed how real these stories are, and how drastically different their lives are than in many western cultures. I struggle to grasp the cultural difference, and am grateful for the freedoms I have as a woman in another country, and the opportunities to learn about other cultures.
My rating is 5 out of 5 stars, which means I fell in love with multiple aspects and highly recommend this book.
The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
Written by Jenny Nordberg
Narrated by Kirsten Potter
Published Sept. 16, 2014 by Random House Audio
Duration: 10 hours 56 minutes
Dates Listened: Dec. 2-6, 2016
To learn more this novel, including purchasing it, reading the introduction, and an interview with Jenny Nordberg, visit the website at http://theundergroundgirlsofkabul.com/ or to read more stories about bacha posh, visit http://bachaposh.com/.