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HOWEVER TALL THE MOUNTAIN

A DREAM, EIGHT GIRLS, AND A JOURNEY HOME

Somewhat erratically composed, but an empowering journey nonetheless.

The improbable story of an Afghan-American writer’s hard-won success in organizing the first girls’ Afghan soccer team.

After three decades of war in Afghanistan and five years under the brutal strictures of the Taliban, liberties for girls were gradually erased, from going to school to participating in sports. Ayub’s family fled to the United States in 1979. Growing up an athletic girl in Connecticut, the author learned Pashto and kept in touch with her cultural heritage. In 2003 she sponsored a group of eight Afghan girl athletes to come to America and train for six weeks in preparation for the 2004 International Children’s Games in Cleveland. The girls, ages 11 to 16, had been brought together to practice for some weeks previously at the Afghan Center in Kabul, though the author met them for the first time when they arrived in America in June 2004. In careful, descriptive prose, Ayub introduces each of the girls by way of her personality and family story. Samira, who became the goalie, wasn’t able to attend school in Kabul from age five to ten because of the Taliban’s edict against girls’ education; Robina, the forward and natural leader, had taken to the streets with her numerous siblings to scavenge; the sisters Freshta, a forward, and Laila, a defender, were refugees from Pakistan. Ayub moves back and forth in time to follow the girls’ development, chronicling how the single team eventually evolved into an entire organization, the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange. The narrative is occasionally disorientating, but Ayub offers a deeply sympathetic look at these girls and their immensely complicated existences.

Somewhat erratically composed, but an empowering journey nonetheless.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2249-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2009

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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