Kabul Beauty School

I don't travel much.  I wish I had the time and money to explore more of the world - and even more of my own country - but for the most part, I don't go very far from home very often.  I think because of that, I love to read about foreign countries and different cultures.  I suppose my love of nonfiction stems from my overall love of learning, but I also feel that books are akin to mental passport stamps - a way to visit far off places without leaving the discomfort of my bus seat.  My most recent literary vacation was to Kabul, Afghanistan in Deborah Rodriguez's book, Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.  The map at right is courtesy of CNN.com and shows where Kabul is in Afghanistan, and the inset shows the country's location in relation the rest of the middle east.  I've read several other books set in this part of the world, but anytime I read a book about a country that I'm unfamiliar with I like to look it up on a map to better orient myself with the geography of the setting.  (That's super nerdy, right?  Oh well, I'm comfortable with my braininess.)

Back to the book.  Deborah Rodriguez is a hairdresser from Holland, Michigan who trained as a relief worker and traveled to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.  Originally feeling that her talents were not as crucial as those of the doctors and nurses in her company, Rodriguez spent much of her time exploring her surroundings and befriending the people around her.  When she discovered that the Westerners in the area and many of the Afghan women she met were desperately seeking her services as a beautician - an idea was formed to begin a school to train and develop local women to start their own salons.  With corporate sponsors and the hard work of dedicated individuals, the Kabul Beauty School opened its doors and Rodriguez became a teacher, mentor and friend to women whose country had forgotten them.

I loved how this book explored the culture clash between American and Afghan society.  The story was well told and it was inspiring to see how Rodriguez changed the lives of the women she worked with and the powerful impact that their stories and friendship had in her life as well.  The book was also a good example of community development done right.  Rodriguez hired her first graduates as teachers and along with giving them a means to support their families for a better quality of life, she set up a cycle of sustainable serving for those who had learned to continue on in teaching others.  It is a model of giving a hand-up rather than a hand-out; the former being ultimately much more productive.

2 Response to "Kabul Beauty School"

  1. Melody says:
    May 5, 2010 at 12:20 AM

    "I suppose my love of nonfiction stems from my overall love of learning, but I also feel that books are akin to mental passport stamps - a way to visit far off places without leaving the discomfort of my bus seat."

    I love this thought because I also think thats where my love of reading in general comes from! I am loving you blog and I am sure I will become a faithful reader! I love the review and think this is going to be added to my TBR!!!


  2. lisa :) says:
    May 5, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    Well, I always feel a little bad for contributing to the growth of other people's TBR piles knowing how massive my own is, but it was a really good book. ;) Stop back and re-comment when you do get around to reading it!

    And I think you're right too, that there's a lot to be learned from reading of any kind. Along with building vocabulary fiction books can be as thought provoking and, especially with well-researched historical fiction, as educational as nonfiction. Thanks for checking out the blog and I'm really glad you like it!

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