I do not think I focused enough on the incredible opportunity that she was offering these women. In a country where women went from relative equality in the 80’s to extreme censorship in the 90’s and 2000’s so many women lost the ability to support themselves.
Even in the US, a woman in a bad situation – abusive husband, father, parents, etc who cannot support herself is trapped unless she is extraordinarily lucky and finds the emotional support to free herself. By empowering these women to have marketable skills like being a beautician – and how to do so by combining traditional Afghanistan techniques and Western techniques (including proper hygenic treatment of the tools of the trade) they open the door for these women to begin making some choices and freedoms of their own. Deborah takes her own experiences with an abusive and controlling spouse and fights back and works through these issues by helping other women find a way to make money to help their family, or to save money more than the husband knows about to be able to do have more choice in their lives.
Whether or not you can see eye to eye with Deborah on her personal choices, and the way that she makes decisions that affect the lives of her closest friends and family; she definitely makes an impact on the lives of many women in Kabul.
I came to this book with a humorous state of mind – I mean – seriously – beauty school? How does that change the world? I walked away with a radically different state of mind. Beauty in a world where women were hidden and with no public agency or voice, can have more impact on the individual than I can really grasp in a world where beauticians are everywhere. I can only hope that the political sphere over there improves and the funding returns for the school to carry on.
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
My initial response to this book was this, pulled from my library thing review:
This book was…incredible. I could not put it down. I bought it at 7:00 this evening and just finished it now at 12:30.
She paints a vivid description of the many joys, fears, successes, and troubles she found on her amazing journey passing back and forth between the States and Afghanistan. She shows the type of courage that would make the world a much better place if more people had her sense of humanitarianism and perseverance.
There are parts of this book that make you laugh and laugh, as you read about her various blunders and faux pas, and then again, there are times I was hard pressed not to burst into tears at some of the more emotional moments. This describes a period of intense ups and downs in the lives of many women.
At the end of it all though, you don’t want the book to be over, you ache for her and Sam’s difficulties, and you long to know how everyone is doing now, even though the afterward updates you through 2007. If you enjoy reading about current events, people’s lives, and stories that aren’t so much about happy endings as they are about gripping reality, this is a book you need to get your hands on.
To that I feel that I need to add something.
I still say that it was a very rewarding book to read. After a lot of reflection though, I feel that I cannot agree with many of the choices made by the author of these memoirs. Some of the details she gives about the life of those around her concern me. They are details that would be a source of incredible difficulty for the people she talks about, and in at least one incident – that of a friend’s wedding and wedding night, something that the people involved can’t help but recognizing as their own story – could have horrible repercussions. Some things should remain secrets between friends – no matter how juicy the story.
I also observed that for a memoir about charitable work, the person doing the work was extremely self absorbed. I find that she has a lot of disdain for traditional culture, makes spur of the moment decisions that effect everyone around her with consideration only of herself, and in the end, I feel like the charity work in and of itself was a method of making her feel better more than anything else.
This in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the book, and I really recommend it. I would love for other people who have read this book to respond with their own opinions.