A renowned psychotherapist’s richly compelling memoir about how her experiences as an Afghan man’s wife shaped her as both a feminist and human rights activist.
At 18, Chesler (Psychology and Women’s Studies, Emeritus/City Univ. of New York; The Death of Feminism: What's Next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom, 2005, etc.) fell in love with the scion of a wealthy family from Afghanistan. She was Jewish, and her “prince,” Abdul-Kareem, was Muslim. Their affair was as unexpected as it was unlikely and led to an even more improbable marriage. Dreaming that she and Abdul-Kareem would travel the world “like gypsies or abdicating aristocrats who have permanently taken to the road,” they went to Abdul-Kareem’s home in Kabul. A starry-eyed Chesler soon found herself stripped of her passport and a prisoner of her husband’s family. Using diaries, letters, interviews, and research and other writings about Afghanistan and the Islamic world, the author offers an illuminating depiction not only of her time as a harem wife, but also of the “gender apartheid” under which Afghan women must live. Chesler could go nowhere and do nothing, including see a doctor, without her husband's or other male relative’s permission. She also found herself at the mercy of a maniacal mother-in-law who forced her to convert to Islam and a husband-turned-tyrant bent on keeping his wife in Afghanistan by any means necessary, including pregnancy. A life-threatening illness eventually moved her father-in-law to get her an exit visa to the United States. Chesler managed to get a divorce only after great difficulty. Yet her contentious relationship with the man whom she once saw as her spiritual “twin” endured.
Intelligent, powerful and timely.