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My Forbidden Face: Growing Up Under the Taliban: A Young Woman's Story Paperback – July 9, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Readers who want to know what life was really like when the Taliban ruled Kabul should turn off CNN and read this book. Latifa (who writes under a pseudonym) was a 16-year-old aspiring journalist when her brother rushed home one day in late 1996 with word that the white flag of the Taliban flew over their school and mosque. She writes, "We knew the Taliban were not far away... but no one truly believed they would manage to enter Kabul." The bizarre edicts of the women-suppressing regime slowly become a reality: women weren't allowed outside the home unless they were shrouded in a "chadri" (which covers the face and arms, unlike a burka, which covers the entire body and according to Latifa is worn only in distant provinces) and accompanied by a male relative. "A girl is not allowed to converse with a young man. Infraction of this law will lead to the immediate marriage of the offenders." No wearing of bright colors or lipstick; no medical care from a male doctor. And women doctors were not allowed to work, essentially cutting off medical care for women. Latifa's story puts a face on these now-familiar rules, and conveys the sheer boredom of the lively teenager-turned-hermit and the desperation of not knowing if she'll ever complete her education in such an upside-down world. Despite its rushed ending (the family fled to France in May 2001 with the help of French Elle) and the occasional reminder that the author is now only 22 (there's talk of Madonna, Brooke Shields, fashion and Indian films), this memoir is one instance where a thousand words are worth more than any picture.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Latifa was only 16 when the Taliban overran Kabul, changing her life dramatically. On the morning of September 26, 1996--the day the Taliban took Kabul--Latifa, her sister, Soraya, and their father drove to Aryana Square and saw the body of the murdered former president, Najibullah. The Taliban began issuing edicts, forbidding women to leave their houses without a close male relative to escort them; forcing them to wear chadris, which cover their entire bodies; and refusing to allow them to work. Latifa, Soraya, and their mother suffered greatly, falling into depression. Their mother, a doctor, continued to see patients secretly, and Latifa eventually started an underground school for girls, an action that put both her and her students at great risk. Latifa and her parents left Afghanistan to be interviewed by the French magazine Elle, but when they tried to return, they discovered that the Taliban had declared them enemies of the state. A moving firsthand account with a real sense of immediacy. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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However, due to what I can only assume was poor editing, the story is very jumbled. It reads as a string of consciousness which was recounted to an interviewer who was probing for information for the story, rather than a finished book. I thought this might be in order to get a current release in 2001 following Taliban attacks on America, but when I saw the publication date was 2008, I have no explanation. I believe this book would be five stars if it was edited into chronological order of the girl's life events and if it was proof-read a few more times. There are many homonyms which are confusing and I assume the result of a language barrier, dropped letters in spelling the same word twice in one paragraph, etc. I think a good editor could easily fix these problems.
I did learn a lot while reading this book, but it was usually by looking up terms I didn't understand on wikipedia and learning more there. I must credit the book for sparking my interest in the struggles of the Afghani people and learning more about the general civil war going on in Afghanistan itself, fueled by many foreign influences who seem to have little understanding of the situation.
Bottom line: I'd recommend it to a friend, but not before recommending a book like Infidel, which is a chronological account of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, born between three governments in Somalia, her life, and the global events taking place around it. Although this is a book taking place in a different region, I believe it shares many of the same themes regarding the repression of women, the perversion of religious government, and the difficulties of a refugee when their nation is destroyed.
This book was mentioned in a reader review of the book "A Thousand Splendid Suns". A reviewer implied that that the author plagiarized "Latifah's" book. I was curious so I bought "My Forbidden Face". I see no signs of any plagiarism at all. Can't imagine what the reviewer was thinking.
Another reviewer of "My Forbidden Face" wanted to know the reasoning behind the Taliban rules so that she could understand better. The Taliban wanted to demoralize and subjugate the people for complete control. That was the reason behind every crazy pronouncement.
I have to agree that the editing was poor and the timelines confusing. I had to re-read some portions of the book because I thought I missed segments. Turns out I didn't miss anything--what I was looking for wasn't there.
Definitely worth reading for the young woman's account of what life was like in Afghanistan during that time period. Scary and heartbreaking.