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In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate Hardcover – April 24, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In vibrant but understated prose, Wahab vividly portrays a misunderstood culture, as well as the tense life on military bases where everyone must wear body armor and carry a weapon. While fighting to build a bridge of understanding between her 'native and adoptive nations,' Wahab admirably wages a more universal war--for gender equality, human rights, and peace."
--Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"Extraordinary....detailed, lively...A carefully wrought work that allows a rare look inside Pashtun culture."
--Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

SAIMA WAHAB was born in Afghanistan, went to Pakistan as a refugee, and moved to the United States as a teenager. Since then she has become one of the only Pashtun female translators in the world, and—among other consequent roles—has returned to Afghanistan several times to work as a cultural adviser with the U.S. Army. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307884945
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307884947
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #611,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany A. Harkleroad VINE VOICE on May 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Saima was born in Afghanistan, at a time of great strife, particularly for Afghan women. Her father was taken prisoner by the KGB, forcing Saima, her mother, and her siblings to eventually flee to Pakistan. After several years, the family decides to send all three children to America, to live with their uncles there, and obtain an American education. Saima, always aware she never wanted to be a traditional Afghan woman, struggles to reconcile the parts of her that identify as American with the parts of her that identify as Afghan. After many years in the states, she decides the answer lies back in Afghanistan, where she returns as an interpreter.

This was, hands down, one of the most incredible memoirs I have ever read. Saima Wahab is an incredibly fascinating woman. She very eloquently, and honestly, tells her story of life as an outsider. She is outside her own culture from the start, determined to never live the docile and subservient life of a traditional Afghan woman. Yet her Afghan and Pashtun upbringing cause her to also be an outsider within American culture.

So often Americans identify what they deem as problems within other countries and cultures, and rush in to try to "fix" things. They discount the etiquette of these cultures, and end up doing more harm than good many times. This book is an interesting glimpse of the Pashtun culture, and how delicate the interactions between Pashtuns and Americans can be. Saima undertakes a great services that honors both her cultures (American and Pashtun), by trying to facilitate better understanding and communication. The Pashtun culture seems so foreign to me, and in some ways backwards, but this book helped me have a greater understanding.

My heart broke for Saima throughout the book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Vargas35 on December 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book held a lot of promise, but its repeated overtones of arrogance and self-importance distract from the periodic descriptions of life as an interpreter in Afghanistan. First, it seems very unlikely that someone who left Afghanistan at a relatively early age could suddenly become such an expert on its culture from afar (enough to deride local Afghan interpreters and interpreters from other countries, like her). I left India as a young child and despite going back frequently throughout my life, I hardly would consider myself more knowledgeable about its culture than someone who lived there for much longer or even a non-native who studied the culture extensively.

Second, Saima is a hypocrite. (Possible spoiler, to the extent an autobiography can have one) - Saima basically details how a number of American military (and civilian) men love her beauty and exotic look (exaggeration, I'm sure, but maybe not, especially in a place where men have so few options, like a military base in a strict foreign country), and she accepts a number of them, but she then towards the end of the book talks about how an Afghan local working on the base "harasses" her by looking at her at the gym. Since this is against Afghan culture, she creates a huge uproar because she must "defend" her Pashtun-ness even though she doesn't hold Americans to the same standard. She goes out of her way in the beginning of the book to note how she's different from Pashtun women because of her independence and free-thinking and then she literally may have gotten a local man killed for looking at her. It is a very bizarre tale and basically sums up how disconnected the book is when it comes to her character.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Lyn on January 31, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have only read about three quarters of the way through this book but I am pretty sure that I won't bother to finish it. In the first half she does a good job of relating interesting anecdotes about her childhood in Afghanistan and what is was like growing up as an Afghan teenager in the US. I was really with her for the first half of the book... then she overdosed on her self-esteem pills. The second half of the book can be summed up as a) men find her irresistible, b) everyone is impressed by her language skills and moxie, and c) she ain't takin' guff from no man. There isn't a single anecdote that she relates about herself that doesn't paint her in a positive - nay, heroic - light. If you are flawless in your biography, you aren't writing a very honest biography. It seemed like she landed in Afghanistan and was instantly transformed into a self-absorbed teenager. I started skipping entire chapters because they read like a Judy Blume novel ("Billy wants to take me to the dance and he is the most popular boy in school but, gosh, Jimmy asked me first and he would just be heartbroken..."). I didn't pick this book because I wanted to understand how hard it is to deal when everyone loves you, I wanted to understand more about the Afghan culture. I also agree with the other reviewers who pointed out that she is very catty when talking about other interpreters, especially the Fasiban-speakers. Come to think of it, there has only been one other interpreter up to this point who isn't lazy, incompetent, dishonest, etc... I also don't buy that she was the only person IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY who could speak both English and Pashtun. Long story short, borrow it from your library or get a used copy.
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