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The Underground Girls of Kabul - Jenny Nordberg

The Underground Girls of Kabul - Jenny Nordberg

Little, Brown Book Group

Regular price €14,95 EUR
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Our take

Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg offers an insider glance into women's lives in Afghanistan. "The Underground Girls of Kabul" is a compelling exploration of "bacha posh" - one of the Afghan sub-cultures where young girls are raised (and disguised) as boys. With the tacit acceptance of others, girls can enjoy all the privileges of being male in Afghanistan. Usually, this relative freedom lasts until they reach adolescence when they switch back to being young women. Among the many acute cultural observations, Nordberg discusses the question of gender identity and brings up an array of sources and anthropological observations drawing on "third gender" examples from other cultures. This nuanced and well-researched work does not show us the stereotypical image of an oppressed burka-clad woman. Through interviews, personal accounts and desk research, Jenny Nordberg paints a different picture of an Afghan woman - that of one resisting oppression and fighting for a better future.

Publisher's description

An Afghan woman’s life expectancy is just 44 years, and her life cycle often begins and ends in disappointment: being born a girl and finally, having a daughter of her own. For some, disguising themselves as boys is the only way to get ahead.

Nordberg follows women such as Azita Rafaat, a parliamentarian who once lived as a Bacha Posh, the mother of seven-year-old Mehran, who she is raising as a Bacha Posh as well, but for different reasons than in the past. There’s Zahra, a teenage student living as a boy who is about to display signs of womanhood as she enters puberty. And Skukria, a hospital nurse who remained in a bacha posh disguise until she was 20, and who now has three children of her own.

Exploring the historical and religious roots of this tradition, The Underground Girls of Kabul is a fascinating and moving narrative that speaks to the roots of gender.

Praise and awards

Winner of the 2015 J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

“Through extensive interviews with former bacha posh, observation of present ones and conversations with doctors and teachers, Nordberg unearths details of a dynamic that one suspects will be news to the armies of aid workers and gender experts in post-invasion Afghanistan.”–New York Times Book Review

“Jenny Nordberg has produced a striking and nuanced work that explores the current status of Afghan women through one of their subcultures…[A] finely written book.”–Washington Post

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