From Kirkus Reviews
Debut author Sharif departed Afghanistan in 1976 for an education abroad, and didn’t come back until three decades had passed. After the U.S. invasion of the country following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Sharif joined a special State Department program to become a diplomat, which in turn led him back to Kabul. However, he found Afghanistan all but unrecognizable, torn asunder by war, tribal conflict and a Taliban hellbent on thwarting the establishment of a stable democracy. The book is a series of letters he wrote to family and friends while on assignment in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2011. The epistles are bittersweet, enlivened by the author’s joy at finally returning to the place of his birth, but also darkened by his realizations that the object of his fond remembrances was now plagued by strife. In one particularly poignant passage, Sharif recounts meeting a barber who turned out to be the grandson of the barber who cut the author’s hair when he was a young child. Interspersed among such personal recollections are meditations on the principal sources of Afghanistan’s troubles, and what strategies could conceivably bring relief. He also provides a running commentary on other subjects, such as the core principles of “Pomegranate Diplomacy,” Muslim dietary restrictions, and important but elusive cultural terms and practices. Along the way, Sharif often writes elegiacally about his country: “It is certainly a tall order and a pipe dream on my part to want to restore the current society to some semblance of Afghanistan’s forgotten Golden Era.” The book closes with an epilogue in which the author reflects on the death of his father and, by extension, the decline of his homeland.
An emotionally arresting, thoughtful account about the soul of Afghanistan.
About the Author
Abdullah Sharif spent three decades consulting as an aviation engineer in North America and Europe. Since 2009, he has served as a US diplomat in Afghanistan. His first deployment, from 2009–2011, was for the Department of State, with a second, from 2012–2013, under the auspices of the Department of Defense working on peace and reintegration.
Born in Afghanistan, Sharif spent a happy childhood in Kabul. He moved to Europe in 1976 and eventually to the United States in 1978, avoiding the communist take-over and the eventual Russian invasion of his homeland, the chaos following the Soviet withdrawal and the Taliban's oppressive regime. Saddened and heartbroken by the changes in his homeland, Sharif is deeply motivated to assist with reconstruction efforts and build peace bridges between Afghanis and Americans.