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Come Back to Afghanistan: A California Teenager's Story Hardcover – October 13, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Akbar's refreshingly unsentimental reminiscences of visiting his father's homeland as a teen make for an intriguing portrait of Afghanistan at a time of significant transition. On 9/11, Akbar, who was born in Peshawar in 1984 but grew up in the U.S., was living near Oakland, Calif., where his father ran a clothing store. After the attack, the elder Akbar, a descendant of an Afghan political family, returned to his country to take a job as President Hamid Karzai's chief spokesman and, later, as governor of Kunar, a rural province. The author visited his father for three successive summers, and the result is this account, a closeup view of the creation of the country's post-Taliban democratic government, told from a perspective that's impressively both insider and objective. Akbar reports on chats with cabinet ministers and warlords, and sketches the lay of the land, visiting both sumptuous Kabul palaces as well as bombed-out villages. His youth and curiosity send him on some dangerous adventures (he retraces a mountain route between Afghanistan and Pakistan used by fleeing members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban), and that youthful flavor also infuses the writing with a hip stream-of-consciousness that is by turns funny, insightful and, occasionally, breathtaking.
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From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 8 Up–After the fall of the Taliban government in 2001, Afghans living in exile began to return home in hopes of participating in rebuilding their war-torn country. Akbar's father sold his hip-hop clothing store in Oakland to join his friend Hamid Karzai, now the elected president, serving first as his spokesman and later as the governor of the remote province of Kunar. The author joined him right after he finished high school and spent three summers, first in Kabul and then in Asadabad, the provincial capital. The young man traveled through the countryside and across the mountainous border into Pakistan. Equipped with a microphone and recorder, he chronicled his experiences and his reactions for public radio's This American Life. These immediate observations form the basis of this engaging and informative account of Afghan life and politics interwoven with a teen's reactions to his first visit to his family's native land. Because of his background and connections, his interest and knowledge of Afghan history and politics, and his language skills, Akbar was involved in his father's work in ways that most teens can only dream of. Readers are rewarded with an inside look at Afghan reconstruction that is both informative and appealing. The teen admires his father and his father's friends immensely; he dreams of being personally involved in nation-building. Readers will come away from this memoir with a strong desire to see into the young man's future and that of the country that has so entranced him.–Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; English Language edition (November 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582345201
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582345208
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,613,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Warren Roos on November 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Often when we read a book or see a movie at the same time we run our own life's experiences against the story. In this book the US pre and post 9-11 history is inextricably interlaced with Afghanistan's. They get a 9-11 over and over again. In getting a look how Afghanistan is we also get a bigger look at our current world.

The book is deeply inspiring and sad too. It should be required reading for all high school students. A study question should be where are the woman. Another question should be is why so many of us do not follow our dreams like Hyder does.

Hyder, in finding himself also shows us so much between the lines about Afghanistan and this country's greatness and warts. He is modest about his real contributions leaving that for the dust jacket.
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Anita Anand on June 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
Yesterday a friend asked what I was reading.

I just finished 'Come Back to Afghanistan: My Journey from California to Kabul' written by Said Hyder Akbar, a 20-year old college student in California. Like many others, Akbar's story is a migrating one - from Afghanistan to Pakistan, India, and then the USA.

When the Taliban were ousted in 2001, Akbar's father, a long time friend of President Hamid Karzai decided to go back to Afghanistan. Akbar started coming with him on his school and college breaks, and got back in touch with his country that he had left a long time ago. It's a homecoming of sorts.

The book is brilliant. Written with the assistance of journalist Susan Brunton, Akbar takes us into corners and niches that few books on Afghanistan do. It is deeply personal and highly political without the usual history, geography or other details. Born in Afghanistan and raised in the US, Akbar is able to straddle both countries and regions. He neither despairs nor scoffs at anyone or anytime. His writing is passionate, gentle and unassuming.

Akbar's goal in Afghanistan is to be with his father and get to know his country. He travels with, among other things, a tape recorder, and makes programmes for National Pubic Radio in California. He interviews the person in the highest office - President Karzai - as well as his driver, Sartor. He listens to everyone and judges none. During the two years he goes back and forth, Akbar's brother and mother visit Afghanistan. His father is appointed as the Governor of the province of Kunar, a remote and troubled area, where the family collects and lives together.

Through sickness and health Akbar goes through the journeys he charts for himself. His writing is sensitive and engaging.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Cat Ceepe on November 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful experience to find a book written by a student at a community college, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA.

What Hyder is experiencing is also what community college students often are after - finding out who they are, where they are supposed to be, looking for those second and third chances.

Hyder's literary voice is already well developed despite his youth, no doubt because of the rich life experience he already has.

I recommend this book to anybody interested not only in uncensored information on what really is going on in Afghanistan, but also to those of of us who are bridging countries and continents by being born in one and living in another.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The beginning of the book where he had talked about the plane parts in the airport, really got me to read it. I had to read a non fiction book for LA, and I chose this book. It looked like an interesting story so I picked it up and read it. I really enjoyed the book but I had some questions for the author. For instance: If you knew what was happening in Afghanistan why did you still choose to go there. I would not have because I wou;d've been afraid to go there and something happen to me. I really liked your writing style and how you described the bombing and crossing into Pakistand. Very good book but it's kind of confusing for me
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By G.I. Jane on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Wow, this book was magnificent. It reveals Afghanistan in a way that I've never seen before (and I've read about extensively this country), giving the readers great insight into the past and present situation of the country. What I most enjoyed about this book was how, because of the unique and compelling viewpoint from which this story is told, it manages to be an informative and entertaining read at the same time.

Akbar writes with incredible details that help make this often stereotyped land come alive, and his background as an American teenager can make some of his anecdotes surprisingly funny. One of the more memorable parts of the book for me was when Hyder, arriving home having just survived an ambush with American Special Forces, decides to tell his father about what happened and gets reprimanded by his father for cutting off a meeting he was in - it was too trivial an issue, his father thought.

His adventures inside the country make this an exciting read, but what was more appealing for me was how he seems to keep his objectivity throughout his extended stays in Afghanistan. Whether he is talking to Americans or villagers or the President, Akbar doesn't seem to have an agenda and it really comes through in this book.

I definitely recommend this book especially for people who want to obtain a better understanding of Afghanistan, its people, and the current US involvement in the country.
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