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by Nadia Hashimi
This book is a fascinating novel by an Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi, who chronicles the life of two different women in Afghanistan a century apart. One is Rahima, who is 9 when the book opens in 2007. Rahima is one of five daughters, and her family has her dress as a son in the ancient tradition of bacha posh, which allows her to be treated as boy until she reaches marriageable age. This allows her to leave the home with freedom to attend school, go to the market and even work, all things she would not be able to do as a girl.
The second story interwoven is the story of Rahima’s great-aunt Shekiba, who lived a century earlier. Shekiba was disfigured in a childhood accident, is orphaned, and then becomes a servant and also lives as a man for a time. These two stories are interwoven in alternating chapters, and the common theme through all of the book is how powerless women in their society are. The women are beaten, sold, and treated like property by every one around them.
The book makes the characters come alive, and provides a fascinating glimpse into another culture. The book is inspiring because despite all the hardship they face the women don’t give up, and persevere to try to make their lives happier. But for someone like me who has grown up in the west the kind of abuse that is portrayed as commonplace is hard to fathom. The women are mistreated not just by men, but by older women who see this as normal and expected. Although the book is sad at times the ending is hopeful.
I’d recommend this book to anyone, it is a fascinating story that is told very, very well. It is a pretty quick read, and so compelling it is hard to put down. My 21 year old daughter took the book from me before I even finished it and read it too, and she loved it too.