Shopping cart is empty.

Birchbark Blog

Things I Didn't Know

Louise Erdrich - Friday, December 12, 2014

Last August we were sorting through the advanced readers copies that had collected on the bookstore shelves. My daughter Pallas picked up The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. I thought I'd seen the last of that book, but Pallas came back for Christmas and put that reading copy in my hands. She told me to read it, I did, and now I have to say to you. READ THIS. The Underground Girls of Kabul is subtitled: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan. This book. If you read it, you will never forget Azita, Mehran, Zahra, Shukria, or Shahed -- all women who have been raised as boys in Afghanistan -- and then forced to return to being women. Nordberg explores a cultural practice that astonished me. It makes sense -- to "make" a girl at birth into a boy, for at least part of her life, is to give her a taste of what it is to be human. To have a will. Often, it is a magical practice that will supposedly prompt a woman's body to produce a male. Most hauntingly, one of these women became a "brother" to a real brother in order to protect him from possible poisoning by a previous wife in a polygamous marriage. She ate everything and drank everything before her brother. You will not stop reading this book until you find out what happens to these women -- what is happening to them now.

Karima Bennoune, a professor of international law at UC-Davis, grew up in Algeria. Her impassioned and superbly intelligent book, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here, begins with this sentence: "Could I defend my father from the Armed Islamic Group with a paring knife?"  Bennoune's father, Mahfoud Bennoune, taught Darwinism and was a fearless critic of armed fundamentalists like the Islamic Salvation Front, who sponsored assassinations of of Bennoune's fellow professors. Her experience impelled Karima Bennoune to travel the world, at great personal risk, in order to interview moderate Muslim people, often women, who cogently and steadfastly insist on human rights in violently fundamentalist settings. She has described herself (I was lucky enough to meet her) as "the woman who makes people cry" because these stories about people who strive to maintain humanity, who die for the right to dissent, to speak freely, become educated, dance, write, paint, sing, bare their faces to the wind, their hair to the sky, and who insist that the memory of those killed in this struggle not be erased, these stories include unbearable loss. Yet the stubborn will to resist is mesmerizing -- I could not stop reading this book until page 195 (the hardcover). In the middle of this page, I had to set the book down in order to cry, too, along with the people whose existence gave me a sense of human grandeur. 


Canoe Family

Recent PostsRSS


Tags

350.org Magers and Quinn Beth Dooley State Troopers italy gratitude birchbark house series spring Peak Water The Ojibwe aquifer The Farmer's Daughter ireland Philip Roth Aza north dakota The Round House Kenwood Gardens china British Navy The Resilient Gardener Louise how good looking you are William Trevor graphix Minneapolis leaves and snow knowledge health care reform The Game of Silence Bohumil Hrabal bill mckibben Hilary Mantel Greenland The Royal Prussian Library The Porcupine Year Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge favorite dog incarnation Women and Trees Light in August Czech Writer Chickadee cafe Bill Moyers Journal Islam Makoons france Jim Harrison twins Zombies adventure buffalo Gail Caldwell Kate DiCamillo solstice, Thomas King Roberto Bolano pilgrims peculiar touches of green and gold euphoria The Birchbark House Keepers of the Trees Native Arts Education Rare Books ptsd National Book Award Aubrey/Maturin Alan Weisman Gary Clement friends NACDI:All My Relations This Green World the most romantic city in the world Pembina The Transition Handbook thank you friends Ice post holiday Afghanistan Interview Gryphon Press Tree Houses local economy More Remarkable Trees Peak Oil Dogs Unnatural Disasters Mankato Powwow favorite tree Canada sweden book and dinner club Ojibwemowin Kabul Crushing Books joy S.C. Gwynne Bleak House Wolf Hall Wastepaper thanks anniversary Guthrie Theater Up Late Again World on the Edge japan 2666 favorite book E.L. Doctorow Nemesis Brown Dog show your love Vic Glover photography Easter Island Alice Munro Catalyst Birchbark Books Chitra Divakaruni green Wendy Makoons Geniusz Ojibwe mississippi Let's Take the Long Way Home Mohamed's Ghosts monkey in a dryer Too Loud A Solitude plants boarding school Keystone XL Green Team Ha Jin Hillary Clinton Native People Nero Victory Gardens H2Oil The Wealth of Nature Anishinabemowin Michael Jackson city of books Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive Fireworks devoted customers Dartmouth coyote Book Review Tar Sands The Blue Sky Anton Treuer President Obama customers Stephen Salisbury language revitalization Emily Johnson Climate Change Patrick O'Brian Poetry germany Botany gardens Video tree books School Gardens post holiday reads ependent neighborhood Minnesota Collective Denial Too Much Happiness Population cafe closing Small Bookstores as Commons Love Remarkable Trees Empire of the Summer Moon Master Butchers Singing Club Anishinabe support Milkweed Press trees fresh water

Archive