Hello, dear readers!
I just finished reading the first book for my series, Booking Around the World and am thrilled to share my review.
Even before I truly dove into this challenge, some difficulties are already becoming evident. I had the utmost respect for Ann Morgan before I read through her reviews and selections for A Year of Reading the World, but it grew by a hundredfold after I became aware of all the obstacles that could come with such a challenge.
For example, what about smaller countries that do not have a large body of notable literature that is accessible in English (Andorra, Sao Tome and Principe)? In the same vein, what am I losing from a translation if the original text was in another language that I do not know? These challenges – and more, are things that I am taking into consideration.
Now onto my selection! For the first country, Afghanistan, I chose to read The Favored Daughter: One Woman’s Fight to Lead Afghanistan Into the Future (ISBN-13: 978-0230342026). This memoir was written by Fawzia Koofi with Nadene Ghouri and published in 2012. I am compiling a list of my completed selections here.
Fawzia Koofi is Afghanistan’s first female Parliament Speaker. She is a current member of parliament and vice president of the National Assembly in Afghanistan. She is also known for championing women’s and children’s rights, having worked in UNICEF as a child protection officer and continuing her push for equality into her political career.
Unless you have been living under a rock, most people know (at least in a general sense) of Afghanistan’s struggles as a nation. In a country still ridden with terrorism and war, it should come as no surprise that Koofi has overcome many obstacles. Nonetheless, her story is nothing short of wild from the very beginning. Her father was a tribal leader and had a polygamous family, and as a result Koofi was the nineteenth child out of twenty three, and she was the last child of her mother, out of a total of eight. Her mother was hoping for her last child to be a boy, as girl children were viewed as worthless in their culture. After many exhausting hours of labor, her mother could not bear her disappointment upon discovering she had given birth to a girl and left Fawzia out to die in the hot sun. Spoiler alert: she lives.
Koofi’s life had a miraculous beginning and the tales do not end there. Somehow, amidst the drama her writing voice remains quietly introspective. There’s a rhythm to her writing; it is lyrical, and oftentimes proverbial. She begins the chapters with letters to her two daughters, Shuhra and Shaharzad, imparting messages of encouragement and wisdom. At times, the messages are lighthearted and sweet. Others are absolutely heart-wrenching.
It is hard to imagine anyone finishing this book without a fondness for Fawzia and what she stands for. It even feels a bit odd for me to refer to her by last name because her personality shines so strongly through her writing that I feel like we should be on a first-name basis. Through all the hardships she has had to endure, including many near-death experiences, Fawzia still has a humble spirit tempered by a fierce passion for social justice. As she walks you through her childhood and path towards her political career, you cannot help but be inspired by her optimism. This optimism is very evidently grounded in her faith, which I relate to on a personal level. Her writing about Islam is poetic and reverent, but it never feels like she is proselytizing. When she laments the atrocities that people have committed in the name of Islam, I cannot help but see the parallels between her beliefs and my sentiments towards Christianity.
Fawzia often mentions her sadness towards the world’s perception of her people and her culture; she grieves over the Taliban co-opting her country, filled with a rich cultural history and traditions. She does a fantastic job of providing the reader with an appropriate amount of Afghanistan’s history while tying it into the story at hand. If all my textbooks during my undergraduate years read like her writing, I would be an expert historian by now. Somehow, Fawzia Koofi was able to humanize Afghanistan’s history and the Afghani people in a way that no BBC or CNN news story can.
What stunned me the most about this memoir was Fawzia’s lack of resentment, which I believe is drawn from a strong foundation of faith. She grew up during a time where Afghanistan was making huge strides towards gender equality before the Taliban took over; she was able to see the progression and regression of women’s rights in her culture, even within her own family. She experienced sexism time and time again, yet forgave the individual perpetrators and acknowledged that there is a systemic problem. Koofi’s patience is a force to be reckoned with; she understands that equality is not something that can be achieved in one fell swoop. At the same time, her refusal to be apathetic is what led to the blossoming of her political career.
What remains evident throughout the memoir is that Fawzia Koofi believes one day the smoke will clear, and the world will once again be able to see Afghanistan for what it is: not a country full of savage terrorists, but a nation that on the large wants to seek peace, a nation full of Islamic hospitality with a desire to have equality for all people. Some people may see this as overly optimistic, but after reading this memoir you cannot help but feel as if Fawzia Koofi’s dreams are possible.
Final review: ★★★★☆