Monday, May 14, 2012

In My Father's County, by Saima Wahab

Saima was born in Afghanistan, at a time of great strife, particularly for Afghan women.  Her father was taken prisoner by the KGB, forcing Saima, her mother, and her siblings to eventually flee to Pakistan.  After several years, the family decides to send all three children to America, to live with their uncles there, and obtain an American education.  Saima, always aware she never wanted to be a traditional Afghan woman, struggles to reconcile the parts of her that identify as American with the parts of her that identify as Afghan.  After many years in the states, she decides the answer lies back in Afghanistan, where she returns as an interpreter.

This was, hands down, one of the most incredible memoirs I have ever read.  Saima Wahab is an incredibly fascinating woman.  She very eloquently, and honestly, tells her story of life as an outsider.  She is outside her own culture from the start, determined to never live the docile and subservient life of a traditional Afghan woman.  Yet her Afghan and Pashtun upbringing cause her to also be an outsider within American culture.  

So often Americans identify what they deem as problems within other countries and cultures, and rush in to try to "fix" things.  They discount the etiquette of these cultures, and end up doing more harm than good many times.  This book is an interesting glimpse of the Pashtun culture, and how delicate the interactions between Pashtuns and Americans can be.  Saima undertakes a great services that honors both her cultures (American and Pashtun), by trying to facilitate better understanding and communication.  The Pashtun culture seems so foreign to me, and in some ways backwards, but this book helped me have a greater understanding.

My heart broke for Saima throughout the book.  She clearly was struggling, probably still is actually, with her cultural identity.  It is apparent that she greatly dislikes the way women are treated within Pashtun culture, yet she respects them as ancient traditions, and in some ways, defends them quite fiercely.  She is a complex woman,  and it is easy to see why she struggles with male-female interactions.  I felt like the book gave me a real, honest sense of her struggle, and while it was emotionally difficult to read, it really enriched my experience of the book.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours.  View the rest of the tour here.




If you liked this review, please rate it (and others!) as helpful on my Amazon profile. My Amazon Profile