I like memoirs. I like to know how people got over, rose to the top or emerged from the ashes.
I wanted to get into the mindset of someone like Rory Stewart who walked from Herat to Kabul, Afghanistan, a trek that took 16 months with an average of 20 to 25 miles walked per day.
The chapters in The Places seemed abrupt but, once I got into the book, I settled in and was captivated by Stewart's journey.
Stewart has to have letters of introduction to get into each valley. People constantly ask him for medicine and/or money and he's called an infidel at least once.
There is mention of blood vendettas, human rights, illiteracy and land mines.
In a seminar in Kabul, I heard Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, say, "Afghans have been fighting for their human rights for twenty-five years. We don't need to tell them what their rights are." The head of a major food agency said privately," Villagers are not interested in human rights. They are like poor people all over the world. All they think about is where their next meal is coming from." (247)This just reaffirms what I heard an Afghan woman say on the evening news years ago:
People who have food do not care about people who do not.
Reading The Places in Between makes you wonder about living under the duress of a regime that banned public music but flaunted public stonings.
As we ate, our host, Khalife Amir, played a tamboura lute...The others, who had not been able to hear music performed in public during the years of the Taliban regime, were quiet. (251)
By the time I got to the end of this book, I was sad to realize that there were no more words to read and that it was time to close the covers.
If you haven't already seen it, check out this fascinating article about how, in Afghanistan, families without sons feel forced to turn their girls into boys.
Furthermore, if you haven't see it, I recommend the documentary Afghan Stories.
I've also heard a lot of talk about The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan but I don't think that I'll be able to stomach that one just yet.
Are you reading anything of note right now?