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This title in other editions

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

by

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan Cover

ISBN13: 9780307952493
ISBN10: 0307952495
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.

The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults.

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

Review:

"Alook at the furtive world of girls who pose as boys illuminates the cruelties of Afghanistan's tradition of male supremacy in this searing exposé. Journalist Nordberg explores the lives of bacha posh — girls who are made over as boys so that their parents can claim the honor of having a son (or, according to folklore, improve their chances of conceiving a real one). Bacha posh experience what few Afghan females ever do: the freedom to go outside without a chaperone, speak their minds, and lead public lives — until adolescence arrives and they are forced back into femininity and sold off in arranged marriages to live in domestic confinement under their husband's thumb. Nordberg's vivid profiles of these girls takes in the quiet, harrowing struggles of other women in a society that accords them few rights. Included is a case of a charismatic woman who is a member of parliament and her family's sole breadwinner — yet still helplessly subject to her husband's abuse. Nordberg's subtle, sympathetic reportage makes this one of the most convincing portraits of Afghan culture in print; through a small breach in the wall of gender apartheid, she reveals the harsh ironies of a system that so devalues women that it forces them to become men. Agent: David Halpern, The Robbins Office. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Myueziksbooks, September 20, 2014 (view all comments by Myueziksbooks)
Meet Azita, wife, politician and mom who's fourth daughter is a bacha posh. ("Dressed like boy") Why is she dressing her daughter like a son? And is she the only one doing so in Afghanistan? That's what Jenny Nordberg is determined to find out. But the lips of the Afghani people are tight lipped with foreigners about their secret customs. But Nordberg is able to find more clues to her puzzle when shadowing a much respected Dr. Fareiba at her family clinic. Her she gets a behind the scenes look into what really happens when a mother brings a daughter verses a son into the world. And it's unlike any other place in the world, it is said Afghanistan is the most dangerous place to be a woman. Here at the clinic men wait outside while woman bring life into this world, the babies gender determining if they will go home in honor or disgrace. Or in reality, if they will go home at all, and estimated 50 women per day in Afghanistan die daily due to childbirth complications. And then meet the others of this book. There's Zahara, who after being brought up as a boy is now full of anger, worrying and vexing her mother with the idea she will get a sex change. And then what about Shukria, who knew nothing about the conceiving of babies until a few weeks before her wedding, at twenty years old, because she too was not raised as her true gender. What about Nader? She doesn't want to be a woman after her thirty years of masquerading as a boy, because she enjoys all the freedoms she has now that a woman, dressed as a woman could not have. (Just to name a few) It's a culture steeped in age old traditions that even most the country men/woman don't necessarily believe in, but will shrug their shoulders as if to say, it is what it is... Driven to do what's respectable by their families, and having little choice being born female, you'll find these underground girls of Kabul and the stories that make them. Really fascinating read! I am always excited to find out about other cultures, and especially if the author can draw me into their world with the ease of a good story teller. And that I found here. Not only was the content interesting, if not sad at some points, Norberg did a great job pulling me in. I loved all the differnt stories and applaud her not only breaking an uncovered story, but doing her research, providing facts and sayng nothing that held any sort of bias or ignorance towards cultures so juxtaposed to our own.
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slsteckler, June 16, 2014 (view all comments by slsteckler)

This book exceeded my expectations. I knew little about the females of the Middle East and this book enlightened me about the Afghanistan population, more than I ever imagined. If you could see my copy, you would know that I enjoyed this book immensely. I have pages of notes pertaining to this book that have opened my eyes and I have talked about this book with many others, it has definitely made an impact on my life. Gender equality, gender power and gender identity issues are words that run deep in this region of the world. I was shocked to learn just how important sons were for this region, so important that a female in the household will dress and act as a male to play this role should a boy not be born into the household. How long they hold out in this charade depends on a few factors which the author digs into and shows us, the reader. The author brings to us the lives of a few individuals who are walking in these very shoes. I found their lives very fascinating and interesting. The pros and the cons are examined and I felt that the author provided a very thoroughly job explaining this complicated life which is so different from our very own but also has a few characteristics of issues that we deal with here in our own country. The author addresses many subjects in the book surrounding the female individual including marriage, jobs, divorce and children. The author brings us personal stories and females who have walked the walk in these different situations so we hear firsthand what their lives were like and/or what they are experiencing firsthand. There is nothing like hearing it come from a person who has actually lived in those conditions. I felt so connected and informed about the females in this region and I know bits of my heart were breaking but to them, they knew no different. I could sing praises of this book forever and I know my husband is probably sick of me reading quotes of the book to him so read this book. The author will take you on a journey where you will meet some individuals who are trying to rise above it all.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780307952493
Subtitle:
In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan
Author:
Nordberg, Jenny
Publisher:
Crown
Subject:
Gender Studies-Womens Studies
Subject:
Women's Studies
Subject:
Afghanistan
Subject:
afghanistan;women
Subject:
Sociology-Islamic Studies
Publication Date:
20140916
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Illustrations:
MAP
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 in 1.3188 lb

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Related Subjects

Biography » Women
History and Social Science » Asia » Afghanistan
History and Social Science » Current Affairs » General
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » Sociology » Islamic Studies
History and Social Science » World History » Afghanistan and Pakistan
History and Social Science » World History » Asia » General

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan New Hardcover
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Product details 368 pages Crown - English 9780307952493 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Alook at the furtive world of girls who pose as boys illuminates the cruelties of Afghanistan's tradition of male supremacy in this searing exposé. Journalist Nordberg explores the lives of bacha posh — girls who are made over as boys so that their parents can claim the honor of having a son (or, according to folklore, improve their chances of conceiving a real one). Bacha posh experience what few Afghan females ever do: the freedom to go outside without a chaperone, speak their minds, and lead public lives — until adolescence arrives and they are forced back into femininity and sold off in arranged marriages to live in domestic confinement under their husband's thumb. Nordberg's vivid profiles of these girls takes in the quiet, harrowing struggles of other women in a society that accords them few rights. Included is a case of a charismatic woman who is a member of parliament and her family's sole breadwinner — yet still helplessly subject to her husband's abuse. Nordberg's subtle, sympathetic reportage makes this one of the most convincing portraits of Afghan culture in print; through a small breach in the wall of gender apartheid, she reveals the harsh ironies of a system that so devalues women that it forces them to become men. Agent: David Halpern, The Robbins Office. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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