The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
Hardcover: 350 pages
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY) (16 Sept. 2014)
Source: Review copy (digital) from Publisher
ISBN: 978 0307952493
An Afghan woman's life expectancy is just 44 years, and her life cycle often begins and ends in disappointment: being born a girl and finally, having a daughter of her own. For some, disguising themselves as boys is the only way to get ahead. Nordberg follows women such as Azita Rafaat, a parliamentarian who once lived as a Bacha Posh, the mother of seven-year-old Mehran, who she is raising as a Bacha Posh as well, but for different reasons than in the past. There's Zahra, a teenage student living as a boy who is about to display signs of womanhood as she enters puberty. And Skukria, a hospital nurse who remained in a Bacha Posh disguise until she was twenty, and who now has three children of her own. Exploring the historical roots of this tradition, The Underground Girls of Kabul is a fascinating and moving investigation.
'The Underground Girls of Kabul' by Jenny Nordberg is an immensely informative, insightful and compelling read. Nordberg obviously did extensive research on the practice in Afghanistan of 'basha posh'. I was not aware of the practice but not surprised.
Having lived in the Middle East I can appreciate a little of the difficulties muslim women face daily living in this often oppressive, male dominated environment. A woman's life outside the home is practically impossible without a male family member to escort them and I understand the necessity for the compromise in order to be able to get things done, or simply be respected.
The reportage is intelligently written in a compelling, non judgmental manner and brings to light the cultural and religious reasons, benefits and disadvantages of having, and being a 'basha posh'.
I would like to thank the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read and review this enlightening, outstanding title.