February 01, 2013

Dear Zari by Zarghuna Kargar

Sometimes, when moaning about unfairness, reading a book like this one really teaches you what fair is. Half the things in this book my brain couldn't even fathom let alone try to relate to what the women if Afghanistan go through. And as hard as it was to read, I think it truly was an important read.

The author, Zarghuna Kargar, is from Afghanistan. They fled when she was young and ended up in Europe where she started working for the BBC and their radio programs. Most specifically, she helped start a program called the Afghan Women's hour which showcased stories from women around Afghanistan. It featured their jobs, troubles, and important topics of the day. From these stories she chose a few to write this book showing different troubles the women of Afghanistan has. And in between, she intersperses her own story, that of a woman who's in a "western" civilization but was still forced to go through an arranged marriage and her struggles with it.

The stories of the women in here are heartbreaking. The amount of suffering they have to go through is overwhelming and they must be a very strong culture in order for the women to survive it. Here, if someone gets a bad grade on a test they can go into complete breakdown. In Afghanistan a woman can be married off, raped, beaten every day, and still not be able to complain about it. And the different stories in this book were all very moving. Zari (Zarghuna) herself is also very brave. She was not afraid to do what it took to get these stories and deal with her own trouble of an arranged marriage at the same time. She is unflinching in telling these stories too. Most people might try to soften it for a reader, but Zari, like a true reporter, tells it as it happened, which I think is respectful to the people who's stories are contained here.

The style is mainly one of short stories, but they are all connected. The tales range from being sold to repay a debt, to being widowed, and falling in love (which is forbidden for most women in Afghanistan). And they are hard topics. It could be too much for people, I know I had tears running down my face as I was reading this book. My only real complaint of the book has nothing to do with the tragic stories within though. It was more the way it was put together. The short stories were a little too short and bounced about a bit. It was hard to maintain focus, especially since the book made you want to read it in short bits already because of the sadness.

A sad, tragic book. But well worth reading. If nothing else these women's voices need to be heard, and this book makes sure that happens.

Dear Zari
Copyright 2012
250 pages

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