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The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland by [Shah, Saira]
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The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Length: 274 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Born in England and raised on her father's fantastic stories of an Afghanistan she had never known, Shah spends her adult life searching for a mythic place of beauty. "Any Western adult might have told me that this was an exile's tale of a lost Eden: the place you dream about, to which you can never return. But even then, I wasn't going to accept that." What she finds is a place ravaged by decades of war, poverty and, later, religious puritanism. Shah first visits Afghanistan in 1986 as a war correspondent at the remarkable age of 21 and later returns as the documentary producer of Beneath the Veil, an expos‚ of life under the Taliban that predated the national interest in the embattled country. Her journey forces her to reconcile the vast disparities between fact and fiction, the world she has pieced together from her father's tales and the reality she glimpses from behind the grille of the Taliban-imposed burqa. Shah weaves legends and traditional sayings into her text, lending a greater context to her expectations and experiences. She also offers a piecemeal history of Afghanistan to accompany the accounts of her travels, but for readers unfamiliar with the many years of political tumult Afghanistan has suffered, the history may not be thorough enough. Most compelling are the characters she encounters and their indomitable spirit, including a woman with 10 children who asks her about a "magic" pill to prevent pregnancy, and her husband, whose intense machismo is not enough to save him from the war.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

In April 2001, Shah, a journalist, traveled to Kabul to secretly document Taliban atrocities in Afghanistan. The result was the documentary film Beneath the Veil. But this was not Shah's first visit. Raised in England, her vision of her father's homeland was nurtured by romantic legends of pleasure gardens and noble mujahideen. When she made her first trip in 1986, a harrowing journey from Peshawar through the Hindu Kush to the front lines in the war with the Soviet Union, she was "chasing a myth." But by the time the Taliban took over in 1996, the disintegration of the myth was almost complete. Beneath the Veil shows the suffering, in particular, of three young sisters, and Shah's trip to do a follow-up report after U.S. air strikes began was also a personal mission to rescue the girls--efforts defeated as much by domestic exigency and centuries-old habits of mind as by larger forces: "Afghanistan had confounded me, just as it has always confounded the West." In this very personal inside-outside account, Shah is our eye on a culture and set of conditions that are much more complex than what we see on the nightly news. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 596 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU4UZS
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,196 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an American curious as to what exactly is going on "over there" where our boys (and girls) are fighting, THIS book has helped me most, with insights not just into the facts of the centuries-long fighting in Afghanistan, but also insight into Afghan culture--heart understanding.

The author writes a narrative, but skillfully weaves in Afghani tales of old that help to clarify the viewpoint of those of a culture foreign to most Americans....foreign to most of the West. The author is the daughter of an Afghani father and Indonesian mother, and was raised in England. It is apparent, as she reveals to us her own struggle of East versus West, that she is attempting to be as fair as she can to both viewpoints, and even more than that...she is trying to carve out the truth between the two.

Sometimes the truth hurts. The myth of the Afghani Mujahidin, the Northern Alliance, the "rescue" of the Afghani people by the West...all is revealed. It would seem that such a thing would leave the reader in dispair, but instead the author leaves the strand of hope for the future.

Anyone who is interested in understanding Afghanistan or simply understanding other cultures will find some insight in this wonderfully written book.
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By A Customer on January 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Saira Shah's stunning new memoir is one of those rare and wonderful books that's hard to classify because it touches the reader in so many different ways. A jewel of many facets -- from high adventure to geopolitics to the wisdom of the ages -- it takes us on a journey of the human spirit as compelling as it is rewarding. The setting of the book is Afghanistan, a country that, despite its recent prominence on the world stage, remains for most of us little known and much misunderstood. Shah opens up Afghanistan for the reader, revealing it to be far more complex and culturally rich than the evening news would lead us to believe; and in so doing, she opens up much, much more. An acclaimed London-based journalist whose powerful television documentary "Beneath the Veil" exposed the horrors of the Taliban to the world just prior to Sept. 11, Shah comes from an accomplished Afghan family of ancient pedigree. Her brother, Tahir Shah, is a celebrated travel writer, and her father, Idries Shah, who died in 1996, was a well-known Sufi philosopher whose 30-plus books have been translated into a dozen languages. But growing up in England, where her family had settled, Saira Shah's main contact with her Afghan heritage was through the stories her father told her and her siblings -- timeless stories of fairytale mountain landscapes peopled by proud and fearless warriors upholding a centuries-old code of honor. THE STORYTELLER'S DAUGHTER is built around her search for her own identity as she attempts to reconcile the romantic Afghanistan of her father's tales with the country's reality after years of devastating civil war.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Saira Shah, raised in Britain far from her ancestoral homeland, Afghanistan, attempts to rediscover the Afghanistan of her father's stories. At a young age, she becomes a journalist, and heads to Afghanistan to cover the war against the Soviets. Traveling secretly with the mujahidin, she enters Afghanistan and gives us a view of the war from the point of view of the people living through the war. The adventures that she relates in this book are quite exciting. It provides an excellent idea of what the situation in Afghanistan is like. It's interesting and the writing style is easy to read. I really recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
Saira Shah sheds light on the complex and subtle religion, culture, and politics of the diverse people in Afghanistan. It's a thoroughly engrossing book with all the qualities described in other reviews.

"The Storyteller's Daughter" helps us towards a better understanding and away from an appalling ignorance about a country that the U.S. has chosen to interfere with. Reading it deepens my concerns that we're meddling in places that we have little or no understanding of and may never be able to understand.

Shah views the divisions within Islam based on fanaticism versus mysticism rather than schools and creeds. The Afghani's are inclined towards the mystic, whereas the Saudis follow a more fundamentalist and austere Islam. Here's an Afghan joke that demonstrates the shared commitment to waging war but the differing approaches: "Every Afghan fighter wants to be a ghazi, a hero, but the Arab wants to be a shahid, a martyr. That's why we try to help them along by putting them on the front line!"

When Shah writes about the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in 1986, she notes that the U.S. wanted to see the conflict as a fight of democracy against Communism and failed to see that its "allies" were fighting a war between "extremist political Islam" and Afghanistan's "outdated traditional society," and the U.S. was funding the extremists.

Family history and allegiances are complex and go far into the past. She explains how a long history of invasions of Afghanistan, Afghan invasions of other countries, and internal wars between families and tribes has resulted in men who are fierce, brutal, and fearless fighters.
Read more ›
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