Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

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Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors, nurses, and therapists–seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was born.

With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers, overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families’ breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup.

Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride sold into marriage to pay her family’s debts, the Taliban member’s wife who pursued her training despite her husband’s constant beatings. Through these and other stories, Rodriguez found the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style.

With warmth and humor, Rodriguez details the lushness of a seemingly desolate region and reveals the magnificence behind the burqa. Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the arts of perms, friendship, and freedom.


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

Deborah Rodriguez has been as a hairdresser since 1979, except for one brief stint when she worked as a corrections officer in her hometown of Holland, Michigan. She currently directs the Kabul Beauty School, the first modern beauty academy and training salon in Afghanistan. Rodriguez also owns the Oasis Salon and the Cabul Coffee House. She lives in Kabul with her Afghan husband.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Random House
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Published on
Apr 10, 2007
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781588366078
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Women
Social Science / Women's Studies
Travel / Middle East / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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“[Deborah] Rodriguez paints a vivid picture of Afghan culture. . . . As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner.”—Kirkus Reviews

After hard luck and heartbreak, Sunny finally finds a place to call home—in the middle of an Afghanistan war zone. There, the thirty-eight-year-old serves up her American hospitality to the expats who patronize her coffee shop, including a British journalist, a “danger pay” consultant, and a wealthy and well-connected woman. True to her name, Sunny also bonds with people whose language and landscape are unfamiliar to most Westerners, but whose hearts and souls are very much like our own: the maternal Halajan, who vividly recalls the days before the Taliban and now must hide a modern romance from her ultratraditional son; and Yazmina, a young Afghan villager with a secret that could put everyone’s life in jeopardy. In this gorgeous first novel, New York Times bestselling author Deborah Rodriguez paints a stirring portrait of a faraway place where—even in the fog of political and social conflict—friendship, passion, and hope still exist. 
 
Originally published as A Cup of Friendship.

Praise for The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul
 
“A superb debut novel . . . [Deborah] Rodriguez captures place and people wholeheartedly, unveiling the faces of Afghanistan’s women through a wealth of memorable characters who light up the page.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“[A] fast-paced winner of a novel . . . the work of a serious artist with great powers of description at her disposal.”—The Kansas City Star
 
“Readers will appreciate the in-depth, sensory descriptions of this oft-mentioned and faraway place that most have never seen.”—Booklist
 
“Charming . . . [a book] to warm your heart.”—Good Housekeeping
Thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices—and, especially, modern industrial agriculture—have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world's soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere, and even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, it would continue warming the planet. In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and bestselling author Kristin Ohlson makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for "our great green hope"—a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon—and potentially reverse global warming.

As the granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of avid gardeners, Ohlson has long had an appreciation for the soil. A chance conversation with a local chef led her to the crossroads of science, farming, food, and environmentalism and the discovery of the only significant way to remove carbon dioxide from the air—an ecological approach that tends not only to plants and animals but also to the vast population of underground microorganisms that fix carbon in the soil. Ohlson introduces the visionaries—scientists, farmers, ranchers, and landscapers—who are figuring out in the lab and on the ground how to build healthy soil, which solves myriad problems: drought, erosion, air and water pollution, and food quality, as well as climate change. Her discoveries and vivid storytelling will revolutionize the way we think about our food, our landscapes, our plants, and our relationship to Earth.
An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom in Afghanistan that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl.

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child--a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.

The Underground Girls of Kabul is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults.

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.
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