The Underground Girls of Kabul- in search of a hidden resistance in Afghanistan

Jenny Nordberg tells a secret side of Afghanistan culture, the bacha posh. In The Underground Girls of Kabul – In search of a hidden resistance in Afghanistan, Nordberg explores a culture that devalues girls and oppresses women, and what happens when there aren’t enough boys. Jenny Nordberg covers Afghanistan when she learns the little boy of her interviewee is actually a little girl. When investigating why, she uncovers so many cultural norms that restrict girls and condemn families without and sons. Afghanistan is a country that’s been at war for more years than not in recent history, but no matter who’s in charge, women are the lowest of society. So what’s a family to do to gain respect, to help run their family story, to run errands when the husband is at work? They often turn little girls into boys, who have more freedom and power than the women of the households.

This was such an interesting book. And such a strange world where a fake boy is better than a real girl. Its heartbreaking for the bacha posh who want to stay as they are. Its heartbreaking for the sisters and mothers to see a bacha posh be treated better than they are. And more heartbreaking is that I don’t know if there’s any help for these women and girls in a culture that seems to hate them. Its hard to understand how a society can hate half the population. Even the women seem to bring the other women down.

Read January 2019

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The Italian Teacher

Pinch Bavinsky lives his entire life in the shadow of his famous father, Bear Bavinksy. The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman, documents Pinch’s life from a young boy to his death, and how his desire to please his father dictates so many choices in his life. Bear is central to the story and to the lives of everyone in his large, extended family. His art, his life, his career is whats most important to him, and to extension everyone else. Pinch feels like a failure compared to his father and ends up living a shadow life but failing at that too.

This was a great read! Following Pinch following Bear through the art world and how artists are made or not by reputation more than skill sometimes. And Bear’s reputation is what he holds most dear in this world. In the end, Pinch’s final Fuck You to Bear is unbelievable and totally deserved.

Read December 2018

The Burning Girl

I read Claire Messud’s The Burning Girl awhile ago, and it didn’t really stick with me. I liked it at the time and there’s a lot of good scenes with Julia and Cassie as they grow and grow apart from middle school to high school. Many of the scenes made me cringe thinking back on my own adolescence and loosing friendships over big and little things. But the end of the novel made me so sad about how people can hide things and even looking back, you can’t know for sure what was happening.

Read October 2018

Saints for All Occasions

Saints for All Occasions tells the story of two sisters who left Ireland for more opportunity in the New World. J. Courtney Sullivan isn’t afraid to show the ugly side of being seen as proper and what people will do to protect themselves from public scorn, Nora and Theresa felt obligations to one another that built resentment and separation. The Catholic church and their belief about illegitimate children changed both sisters’ lives.

Nora remained in Boston, married, and raised a family. Theresa cut ties, moved to NYC and eventually became a nun. All affected by a youthful “mistake”.

Sullivan gets into families and rips them apart so we can see it for what they are. Everyone trying to right by others, but the secrecy can do nothing but bring pain.

Read August 2018

Starry River of the Sky

Grace Lin’s Starry River of the Sky incorporates many Chinese myths into the story of a young boy traveling on his own. Through stories we learn about how the mountain was moved, the Magistrate tricked the emperor, the many suns were shot out of the sky, and how sun and the moon love one another.

I listened to this on CD in the car while traveling with my kids. They loved it, I loved it, and we were bummed when it was over. There were so many myths that I’ve never heard of interspersed in this novel that I felt I was also learning a little about Chinese culture.

Great listen!

Read July 2018.

harmony

Carolyn Parkhurst’s “harmony” is told from 3 perspectives: the mother, the “normal” sister, and as if visiting a strange historical monument of the family.

The Hammond family, in an attempt to help their undiagnosable, Autistic-like daughter Tilly, leaves their DC home and moves to New Hampshire’s Camp Harmony. The brain-child of a child-rearing expert, the childless man named Scott Bean, Camp Harmony will help serve kids who are struggling in their homelife by providing a community that can help support them in their own unique development. The camp is essentially cut off from the world and the residents put their faith in Scott Bean’s approach in the last of innumerable attempts to help their children.

The story’s many twists and turns help tell the struggle of the Hammond family in trying to help Tilly. And the Camp does seem to be helping several of the children that need help but at what cost.

Intersting perspective of living with a family member who does not conform.

Read July 2018

Silence in October

Jens Christian Grondahl’s Silence in October differs than any other novel I’ve read, possibly ever. An art historian wakes up one morning and his wife of 18 years walks away from their home without explanation or questioning. This begins a stream of consciousness of our narrator about his life, his past loves, and how he’s lived with someone for so long that maybe they lost touch.

Its quite an interesting read. I changed from disliking the wife who left, to disliking the narrator for not asking more questions. No one is perfect in this book as we travel from the present to the past, from current relationships and friendships to loves long gone. Can anyone even know anyone? Can anyone ever be happy or know that they are? Can we become stale in a relationship if everyone’s ok with as things are?

I slowed to this novel, having bought it years ago, and started it multiple times. But once invested in why the wife left, I needed to keep going. Maybe the question shouldn’t be why did the wife leave, but why had she stayed for so many years.

Excellent read. Read July 2018.