The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

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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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About the author

JENNY NORDBERG is an award-winning journalist based in New York. A correspondent and columnist for Swedish national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, she has a long record of investigative reports for, among others, The New York Times, where she also contributed to a series that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. In 2010, she was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism for a television documentary on Afghan women. She is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Broadway Books
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Published on
Sep 16, 2014
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780307952516
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Women
Social Science / Islamic Studies
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, share the stories of the gutsy women who have inspired them—women with the courage to stand up to the status quo, ask hard questions, and get the job done.

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Many people—especially girls—have asked us that same question over the years. It’s one of our favorite topics.

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Ensuring the rights and opportunities of women and girls remains a big piece of the unfinished business of the twenty-first century. While there’s a lot of work to do, we know that throughout history and around the globe women have overcome the toughest resistance imaginable to win victories that have made progress possible for all of us. That is the achievement of each of the women in this book.

So how did they do it? The answers are as unique as the women themselves. Civil rights activist Dorothy Height, LGBTQ trailblazer Edie Windsor, and swimmer Diana Nyad kept pushing forward, no matter what. Writers like Rachel Carson and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie named something no one had dared talk about before. Historian Mary Beard used wit to open doors that were once closed, and Wangari Maathai, who sparked a movement to plant trees, understood the power of role modeling. Harriet Tubman and Malala Yousafzai looked fear in the face and persevered. Nearly every single one of these women was fiercely optimistic—they had faith that their actions could make a difference. And they were right.

To us, they are all gutsy women—leaders with the courage to stand up to the status quo, ask hard questions, and get the job done. So in the moments when the long haul seems awfully long, we hope you will draw strength from these stories. We do. Because if history shows one thing, it’s that the world needs gutsy women.
The dramatic, spiritual memoir of a prominent Muslim woman working to empower women and girls across the world—for readers of Malala Yousafzai and Azar Nafisi.

Raised in a progressive Muslim family in the shadows of the Himalayan mountains, where she attended a Catholic girls’ school, Daisy experienced culture shock when her family sent her to the States to attend high school in a mostly Jewish Long Island suburb. Ambitious and talented, she quickly climbed the corporate ladder after college as an architectural designer in New York City. Though she loved the freedom that came with being a career woman, she felt that something was missing from her life. One day a friend suggested that she visit a Sufi mosque in Tribeca. To her surprise, she discovered a home there, eventually marrying the mosque’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, and finding herself, as his wife, at the center of a community in which women turned to her for advice. Guided by her faith, she embraced her role as a women’s advocate and has devised innovative ways to help end child marriage, fight against genital mutilation, and, most recently, educate young Muslims to resist the false promises of ISIS recruiters.

Born with Wings is a powerful, moving, and eye-opening account of Daisy Khan’s inspiring journey—of her self-actualization and her success in opening doors for other Muslim women and building bridges between cultures. It powerfully demonstrates what one woman can do—with faith, love, and resilience.

Praise for Born with Wings

“A heartfelt, deeply personal, and touching account of a Muslim woman’s spiritual journey and her work to empower women and girls around the globe.”—Her Majesty Queen Noor

“Daisy Khan is one of the most prominent Muslim voices in America and an icon of female empowerment across the globe. This beautiful story of her spiritual journey is an inspiration to anyone who seeks to change the world.”—Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Zealot

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“A lyrical, poignant, emboldening, and, most of all, deeply important book.”—Bruce Feiler, author of Abraham and Walking the Bible
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • United States Senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand recounts her personal journey in public service and galvanizes women to make a meaningful difference in the world around them.
                                                      
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Off the Sidelines is a playbook for women who want to step up, whether in Congress or the boardroom or the local PTA. If women were fully represented in politics, Gillibrand says, national priorities would shift to issues that directly impact them: affordable daycare, paid family medical leave, and equal pay. Pulling back the curtain on Beltway politics, she speaks candidly about her legislative successes (securing federally funded medical care for 9/11 first responders, repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) and her crushing disappointments (failing by five votes to pass a bill protecting survivors of sexual assault in the military).

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In Off the Sidelines, Gillibrand is the tough-love older sister and cheerleader every woman needs. She explains why “ambition” is not a dirty word, failure is a gift, listening is the most effective tool, and the debate over women “having it all” is absurd at best and demeaning at worst. In her sharp, honest, and refreshingly relatable voice, she dares us all to tap into our inner strength, find personal fulfillment, and speak up for what we believe in.

Praise for Off the Sidelines

“Gillibrand has written a handbook for the next generation of women to redefine their role in our world.”—Arianna Huffington

“There are moments of immensely appealing self-disclosure that seldom appear in other books of this genre. . . . This isn’t your mother’s political memoir.”—The New York Times Book Review
In this brilliant, breathtaking book by Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human through the dramatic story of families striving toward a better life in Annawadi, a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport. As India starts to prosper, the residents of Annawadi are electric with hope. Abdul, an enterprising teenager, sees “a fortune beyond counting” in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Meanwhile Asha, a woman of formidable ambition, has identified a shadier route to the middle class. With a little luck, her beautiful daughter, Annawadi’s “most-everything girl,” might become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest children, like the young thief Kalu, feel themselves inching closer to their dreams. But then Abdul is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power, and economic envy turn brutal. With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects people to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, based on years of uncompromising reporting, carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century’s hidden worlds—and into the hearts of families impossible to forget.
 
Winner of the National Book Award | The PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award | The Los Angeles Times Book Prize | The American Academy of Arts and Letters Award | The New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award
 
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • O: The Oprah Magazine • USA Today • New York • The Miami Herald • San Francisco Chronicle • Newsday
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New Yorker • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Wall Street Journal • The Boston Globe • The Economist • Financial Times • Newsweek/The Daily Beast • Foreign Policy • The Seattle Times • The Nation • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • The Denver Post • Minneapolis Star Tribune • Salon • The Plain Dealer • The Week • Kansas City Star • Slate • Time Out New York • Publishers Weekly
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
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For more than a decade, Katherine Zoepf has lived in or traveled throughout the Arab world, reporting on the lives of women, whose role in the region has never been more in flux. Only a generation ago, female adolescence as we know it in the West did not exist in the Middle East. There were only children and married women. Today, young Arab women outnumber men in universities, and a few are beginning to face down religious and social tradition in order to live independently, to delay marriage, and to pursue professional goals. Hundreds of thousands of devout girls and women are attending Qur’anic schools—and using the training to argue for greater rights and freedoms from an Islamic perspective. And, in 2011, young women helped to lead antigovernment protests in the Arab Spring. But their voices have not been heard. Their stories have not been told.

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Deeply informed, heartfelt, and urgent, Excellent Daughters brings us a new understanding of the changing Arab societies—from 9/11 to Tahrir Square to the rise of ISIS—and gives voice to the remarkable women at the forefront of this change.
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