Occasionally I’ll post book reviews from Goodreads when they are about women who I think are worth noting. Malalai Joya certainly falls in that category.
First off let me say, there have been 2 versions of this book released. I just bought it for my Kindle last week, so I have the latest edition. I did not find the writing as objectionable as some reviewers have. I’m sure as in most books there are areas where it could be improved, but it was not a distraction to me at all.
There are many extraordinary men and women in this world and this book is the story of one of them. Although Malalai Joya is a young woman, she has an important story to tell. Born into war-torn Afghanistan, she was fortunate to have a father who was educated and wanted his children to be educated as well – an estimated 80% of Afghan women are illiterate. Her father also instilled in her a love of democracy.
Malalai Joya is not her real name, but it is the name she goes by in most areas of her life in order to protect her family. Born in 1978, she has never known a time when her country was not at war. In A Woman Among Warlords, Joya describes her life in rural Afghanistan, refugee camps in both Iran and Pakistan, teaching in underground schools for girls, and finally being elected to the new Parliament only to be ejected for speaking out. Her life is constantly in danger, and although she has traveled outside of Afghanistan to speak and carry her message, she won’t consider staying out of the country. Love for the real Afghanistan, the people, comes through on every page.
The book gives a brief history of Afghanistan to fill in background for the current struggle. She speaks knowledgeably about the roles other governments have played in this history and credits the research team who helped her gather this information. I have read several other books about Afghanistan and the facts are consistent with what I’ve read.
Although the book carries a message of hope, it is not a feel good book. She conveys a picture of the horrors that the Afghan people have had to endure and is critical of the people who have brought it about. This includes both Afghans such as the warlords and the president Hamid Karzai, but also the former Soviet Union and the current US/NATO occupation. However, just as she is able to distinguish between the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan, she distinguishes between the people of western countries and their governments. Joya is thankful for being able to carry her message to Europe and the US, and for the help she has received from some western organizations.
The message could sound hopeless, but she doesn’t see it that way. In the last chapter Joya gives suggestions to people who want to help. As an American, I have often wondered how we could leave Afghanistan with so many problems, many of which we caused, knowing that there are so many warring factions. Joya is insistent that, if democracy is to be attained in Afghanistan, it will be because the people secure it for themselves. The message I get from this book is that yes they would like our help, but from a distance.