Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bookshelf: Kabul Beauty School

Wow, you just can't make this stuff up! Imagine an memoir written by a spunky hairdresser from Michigan who is married to an abusive minister. Okay, that sounds pretty boilerplate. But here's what happens next. 9/11. And Deborah Rodriguez leaves her kids and no-good spouse behind and heads off to Afghanistan to do a little Christian relief work.

She ends up founding a beauty school in Kabul, a place that not only offers women a private sanctuary to look pretty and connect with others, but the opportunity to make serious money in a city where women are largely unemployable. Kabul Beauty School is a beautiful, touching, and sometimes hilarious look at women's lives behind the veil in modern Afghanistan. We meet her friends and students and learn about the immense--sometimes insurmountable--challenges these women face in a patriarchal, traditional and very religious society. Deborah marries into the culture (she basically lets her friends arrange a marriage for her!), giving her the kind of intimate access travel writers and journalists just can't match.

And here's an interesting tidbit about me: I lived in neighboring Pakistan during my middle school years.