Heartrending collection of women's life stories culled from the BBC radio show “Afghan Woman's Hour.”
Kargar presented and produced the show with the goal of providing women in Afghanistan a weekly program that would cut across tribal, social and economic boundaries. The author was chosen in part because she understands and speaks the country's two primary languages, Dari and Pashtu. Born in Kabul, Kargar and her family fled to Pakistan in 1994, fearing for their safety in the heat of Afghanistan's civil war. In 2001, the family claimed asylum in the U.K. In line with their homeland's traditional values, her parents arranged her marriage, at 21, to a distant relative whom Kargar did not love. As the opening chapter, this theme of an Afghan woman accepting an unwanted marriage runs throughout the book, which is rife with the tales of abuse the author heard while producing the radio show. "Regardless of illegality," she writes, "most women simply obey their family and consider that whatever happens in their lives is God's will." Each of the following chapters tells a different woman's story: a girl given away as a slave to settle a family dispute; a young woman traded to another family in exchange for a second wife for her father; a wife whose gay husband moved his male lover into their home; and women being blamed, even shunned, for failing to produce a son. These terribly sad stories served as a catalyst for change in Kargar's life, inspiring her to get divorced and make more of her own decisions.
An emotional and enlightening reading experience.