Monday, July 30, 2007

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

This was an interesting and disturbing book.

It follows a 'typical' Afghanistan family for several months in the Spring after the Taliban fled from the country. The author is a female Swedish journalist who moved in with the family. She observed, traveled with the men, worked with the women, wore a burka, and according to her, "I have rarely been as angry as I was with the Khan family, and I have rarely quarreled as much as I did there. Nor have I had the urge to hit anyone as much as I did there."

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the way you see into the family life. Women are trully possessions and slaves. Their value is measured by the way they make their men happy - not only husbands, but fathers and sons as well. A man ALWAYS had more power than the women regardless of the age of the man or the woman. My guess is that was one of the reasons that Asne (the author) was so angry so often.

Although this was a fairly wealthy family - 11 lived in a 2 room apartment with inconsistent water or electricity. Sultan ( the bookseller, father and strongest family member) decided everything including who or if his youngest sister would marry or continue to be a virtual house slave is Sultan's home.

This was a great book to read after A Thousand Splendid Suns. This was the nonfiction version of life at the end of the book.

It is hard for my American sensibilities to understand how the power structure has evolved. It is almost impossible to imagine how it would feel to always accept that my sex makes me second rate. It was not only the Taliban who promoted this - Burkas and female subordination existed before their rule.

This book brought up more questions for me -as we try to understand a different culture there is so much to know.

I would recommend this one too!

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