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

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Bookseller: Ellyne
Title: The Underground Girls of Kabul


I was so fascinated by this book that I couldn’t stop talking about it.  Really – 1-hour tutorials.  The practice of dressing up one’s daughter to look like – to be – a boy takes place not only in Afghanistan, but it is here that the author went to do her research. 

Not only are women who give birth to girl after girl looked down upon, but the entire family will be disgraced in the eyes of relatives, neighbors and friends.  Dress the little girl as a boy and voila, everything will change.  Let me count the ways; but no - I’m going to control myself and give you the chance to fall under this book’s spell.  Then you can corner people and tell them about it!

— From Ellyne's Past Picks 2


An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom 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.

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).

Product Details
ISBN: 9780307952509
ISBN-10: 0307952509
Publisher: Broadway Books
Publication Date: July 14th, 2015
Pages: 384
Language: English