Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where you can share the first paragraph, or a few, of a book you are reading or thinking about reading soon.
Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!
Today I am spotlighting The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
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.
The transition begins here.
I remove the black head scarf and tuck it into my backpack. My hair stays in a knotted bun on the back of my head. We will be in the air soon enough. I straighten my back and sit up a little taller, allowing my body to fill a larger space. I do not think of war. I think of ice cream in Dubai.
We crowd the small vinyl-clad chairs in the departure hall of Kabul International Airport. My visa expires in a few hours. A particularly festive group of British expatriates celebrate, for the first time in months, a break from life behind barbed wire and armed guards. Three female aid workers in jeans and slinky tops speak excitedly of a beach resort. A piece of black jersey has fallen off a shoulder, exposing a patch of already tanned skin.
I stare at the unfamiliar display of flesh. For the past few months, I have hardly seen my own body.
On the way home, Mehran falls asleep on her father’s shoulder, as the task of driving is turned over to a firefighter with droopy eyelids. Mehran has a few more years before the life of an Afghan woman begins. For now, she is on the side of privilege.
So...what do you think? Is this one you would pick up? Leave a comment below!