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A FORT OF NINE TOWERS by Qais Akbar Omar Kirkus Star


An Afghan Childhood

by Qais Akbar Omar

Pub Date: April 16th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-15764-7
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A carpet designer and businessman's profoundly moving account of a childhood and adolescence lived amid the Afghan civil war.

When Omar was growing up in the early 1990s, his native city of Kabul was “like a huge garden.” Life was full and happy, and his only concern was besting his cousin Wakeel at kite flying. But then rival Mujahedeen factions began fighting each other, transforming the once-Edenic city into a bloody wasteland that reminded Omar of “an American horror movie.” The family sought refuge in Qala-e-Noborja, a fort on the outskirts of Kabul that a friend of Omar’s father had transformed into a lush, green compound. As rockets and gunfire exploded around them, the family planned for their return home. Omar and his father attempted to go back to the family house, only to find it occupied by sadistic soldiers who imprisoned and tortured the pair before freeing them. As the ring of terror tightened around the fort, the family fled Kabul. Their dangerous journey took them through central and northern Afghanistan, where they camped in caves located inside a giant statue of the Buddha and joined nomad relatives on their overland treks. Along the way, Omar met, and fell in love with, an older deaf-mute Turkmen girl who taught him how to weave carpets. These skills would eventually help him support his starving, demoralized family and secretly provide work to young Kabuli women who suffered under the misogynist regime of the Taliban. As lyrical as it is haunting, this mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed debut memoir is also a loving evocation of a misunderstood land and people.

A gorgeously rich tapestry of an amazing life and culture.