Dear Zari - The Secret Lives of the Women of Afghanistan by Zarghuna Kargar

Dear Zari is based on the stories that were told during Afghan Women's Hour, broadcasted from 2005-2010. Zarghuna Kargar was a journalist for the program and was herself part of an arranged marriage to a man she had never met from a different country. She eventually found the courage to end her own unhappy marriage. Because the author fled Kabul and the Taliban as a child with her mother and baby sister, Kargar is sympathetic to the stories of the women in the book, and I think because of her background she was approachable. According to an article from The Guardian, 'Zari' came from Zarghuna, because the 'gh' sound was difficult for some to pronounce.

This was a hard read. And inspiring as well. Dear Zari is a collection of 13 different stories of women living in Afghanistan, 12 of different women and her story as well. Her story of her fleeing Kabul was difficult in itself and I felt a real admiration for her mother for doing it with young children in tow. While Afghanistan is a male dominated society, many of the stories illustrate the abuse women give to other women, too. Abuse is passed on from mother to daughter simply because of a skewed view of what religion or tradition is. And being a mother myself to daughters, what some mothers put their own children through is wrenching. Kargar writes:

But many women justify their behavior by convincing themselves that a custom is in fact religious law or duty, when in fact most religious rules are limited to prayers and fasting. Lack of education is chiefly to blame, but these traditions are also maintained at home in each family, and passed down from mother to mother.

What makes each story so difficult is most of us as we sit down to read a story expect a happy ending. Many of the stories do not end happy, and some end up very violent. What the women go through is heartbreaking yet each offered up their story as an inspiration to others. Some women speak up with disastrous results and some just quietly accept their lot in life. Dear Zari is a moving read as a whole and the individual stories are difficult to forget.

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Disclosure: This book was provided to the author by the publisher. Any opinions are the author's own.