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My Afghanistan: Before the Taliban Paperback – October 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Aeronaut Press (October 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0964282887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0964282889
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jean Harris Boyce-Smith was born in 1925 in Concord, New Hampshire where she grew up and married Walt Boyce, her high school sweetheart. Jean left New Hampshire to attend Barnard College in New York City and earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English. Following graduation, Jean and Walt were recruited by the Royal Afghan Government to teach English at Habibia University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Their time there is the basis for Jean's memoir "My Afghanistan," published posthumously.

Upon their return to the States in 1950, Jean and Walt worked in New York, he at his alma mater Columbia and Jean as an editor, first at T.V. Dial and then for T.V Guide. When Walt was offered the position of Dean of Men at Bates College, Jean moved with him to Lewiston, Maine where she lived until 1971, a 1960's faculty wife who raised three children but also wrote book reviews for the local newspaper. When her youngest reached school age, Jean returned to teaching. After Walt's death in 1968, Jean moved to northern California where she continued to teach until her retirement some fifteen years later.

Jean married Perrin Smith in 1974. He actively encouraged her lifelong love of travel and her continued writing. She was a member of several writers groups including the Napa Valley Scribblers, sold every word she wrote including a number of short stories and essays, and near the end of her life was accepted as a member of PEN. Following her death in September 2009, her husband and daughter joined forces to edit and publish the stories of her adventure in Afghanistan and India, the most formative experience of her life.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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The book is written in a chatty way and is easy to read and is interesting.
Israel Drazin
Jean is struck by how much two American teachers can be made to feel like privileged society and are invited to embassy parties regularly.
Terri J. Rice
It should also motivate us to see how we can make the world a better place.
Cyrus Webb

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Few countries are as remote, in time, space and culture, yet it has played a significant role in the American psyche over the past decade, in ways that Tajikistan, Malawi, and Ecuador never have. A significant portion of our military has now received the proverbial "all-expenses paid" tour of the country. I've read, and re-read James Mitchner's Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan, and have reviewed it at Amazon. Mitchner's novel is set in post-World War II Afghanistan, in the late 40's, precisely the time period of Boyce-Smith's memoir. Mitchner's novel contained some amazingly prescient insights into the country, particularly since it was written in the `60's, yet the story line was far-fetched and highly improbable. I gave the novel a 3-star rating. I had hoped that Boyce-Smith's account would be a more realistic depiction of the very early American interactions in a country that had been in the British sphere of influence. I was not disappointed.

Like one of the principal characters in Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan, Ellen Jaspar, Jean Boyce-Smith had recently graduated from a prestigious Eastern college. She had married an American however, unlike Ellen Jaspar who had become enchanted with an upper-class Afghan, who was educated in the United States. The author was only 23 when she and her husband embarked on a ship (carrying dynamite for Aramco, in Dhahran!) for Bombay. The year was 1948, one year after Indian independence from the British raj, and the subsequent partition of the subcontinent. Certainly these events complicated their journey to Kabul.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
Thanks to her daughter -Anne Harris Boyce - Joyce Boyce-Smith `s long brewed tale of an idyllic life in Afghanistan has come to light. This is a homespun story of Joyce and husband Walt's year of throwing convention to the birds after college and taking a year to explore the exotic climes of Afghanistan, with a bit on India thrown in. From 1948 to 1949, after the clutter of WW II had settled and as the Cold War with Russia was nascent Joyce and Walt braved the fears of their families and stuck out to spend a year of exposure to a different culture. They both found teaching jobs in Kabul and through a year of assimilation and appreciation they became so much a part of Afghanistan that they deeply regretted their necessary return to the United States. Both fell in love with their adopted country and it is through the eyes of the author that we discover a new appreciation for a much-maligned country.

This book is rich in sensitivity and revelation about a country always known for its infamous hospitality. In a combination of photographs and asides and diary-like chapters Joyce Boyce-Smith reveals an Afghanistan that is so different form the vantage we at present have - a country whose landscape has been leveled by wars with Russia and with America, riddled by the Taliban, and the topic of debate as to whether or not keeping troops there at the present is warranted.
What Boyce-Smith ((Walt committed suicide in 1968 and Joyce married Perrin Smith, the publisher of this memoir, in 1974 - hence the hyphenated name) did for twenty years was write this tender and vastly entertaining book in her spare time. She died before it was completed - thus the final `author' is her daughter, a facet of this book that makes it that much more sensitive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 3, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is the personal story of a 22 year-old recent college graduate who decides in 1948 to go to Afghanistan with her husband to teach Afghans. She taught boys from age 13 to 23, some from rich and some from poor families, some understood English while others did not, but she did not know the Afghan language. This was during the beginning of the Cold War, a time when the Afghans distrusted the British, who were their former colonial rulers, because they suspected that the British wanted to keep the country undeveloped and poor, as a buffer between Russia and British India. She remained in Afghanistan for just over a year and left with mixed feelings, becoming "more and more cavalier about our duties" before she left the country. She describes the difficulties that she had and the conditions of the country some sixty years ago. "(I)llness, frustration, and isolation had gotten to us." Soon she and her husband were fighting with each other. She describes interesting Afghan customs such as not attending at a performance or social occasion is "a courteous, Afghan way to avoid direct conflict." Her comments are sometimes striking, as when she writes, "Afghans, like Americans, have a history of violence. While we have assassinated Presidents, they have killed kings."The book is written in a chatty way and is easy to read and is interesting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. B. Sharp TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
"My Afghanistan" is a delightful series of reminiscences of a twenty three year American girl just out of college who with her husband were chosen to teach English to boys in Afghanistan. Afghanistan, 1948. A totally different world, now vanished forever.

The young couple, plowing ever east ward on a converted World War II freighter, soon leave their comfortable country far behind. "The ship moved languidly through seas...from the strong Atlantic blue... to cerulean... to milky azure."

Spicy smells, strange cries, the tinkle of bells assailed their senses as the freighter slid into Jeddah on the Red Sea, and Bahrain, and Bombay. The the last leg of the journey was by a small plane ,and finally a decrepit station wagon that groaned up and down the steep rocky hills through the Khyber Pass to a civilization far, far removed from the rest of the world.

Jean Boyce, the narrator, has in addition to a journalistic eye for detail. a fine sense of humor. She relates that when her possessions went through Afghan customs, the customs inspectors would most certainly find her three padded bras and tell everyone everywhere that Meesis Boyce did not have a thirty eight size bust. She pictured all the merchants in the bazaars laughing at her expense.

Jean taught at a boys' school called Habibia. Her classroom would consist of some 50 boys, ranging from age 13 to 23, the age she was. Many of the older boys towered over her. Young men of all economic circumstances were herded together. Some of these were rich and sported karakuls (a type of cap nearly all the men wore) made out of expensive materials such as fur. Their shoes would be of leather and brightly polished. The poorer students might even be barefoot.
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