Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Review

My Forbidden Face. Growing up under the Taliban: A young woman's story by Latifa is an eye-opening book. The author, who has written under the psuedonym of Latifa, escaped Afghanistan in 2001 with her parents. Growing up under the Soviet occupation of her country, life was relatively "normal" for this young woman until civil war developed between the army of General Massoud and the Islamic extremists (Taliban) supported by Pakistan. Latifa's description of life under the Taliban and what it meant to women in Afghanistan are truly horrifying and almost unbelievable. She decribes the rules implemented by the Taliban as "the total negation of women". Unable to work, be educated, seek medical help, shop for basic necessities, or even go out among society without the accompaniment of a man, were just some of the rules women had to endure.

I enjoyed reading this book because it provided a perspective on life in a country most Canadians know little about, and yet is now a part of the daily news. Like other reviewers on Amazon.com, I found the book to be very difficult to follow. The history of Afghanistan is complicated and unfortunately, is presented in a rather disjointed fashion. The author opens the book with the events of the Taliban entering Kabul, where she lives, in 1996. Latifa then has pages of recent Afghan history strewn throughout the book and it's difficult to understand how everything fits together. A second detailed chapter on the history of Afghanistan would have been a more effective way of dealing with the events that preceded those in the opening chapter and would have provided a platform for discussing the events in her family's life. Other comments made throughout the book, such as how Afghani's viewed American foreign policy, might have been discussed in detail.
Nevertheless, I recommend this book. The author's style is readable and she has some valuable insights into the effect of the Taliban on the Afghan people. It would be interesting to know how Latifa is doing today and whether she has returned to her native Afghanistan.
My Forbidden Face. Growing up under the Taliban: A young woman's story.
Latifa
Editions Anne Carriere, 2001

1 comment:

heather mc said...

If you liked that book, try "Reading Lolita in Tehran," a depiction of the life of a professor of western literature during the Revolution in Iran. She ends up holding secret classes for her young, female students, who make connections between the lit and their lives. While Afghanistan obviously does not = Iran, the impact of the political events on women is similar in both cases.