Saturday, July 16, 2011

West of Kabul, East of New York

I just finished reading West of Kabul, East of New York (and realized looking at Amazon that I waaay overpaid for it at a local used bookstore). Well, maybe I didn't overpay, since I was supporting a local business, and reducing waste by reading a used book instead of purchasing a new one. But, that is not what I really intended to write about. What I wanted to say was that the really catching part of this book was its normalcy. The author, Tamim Ansary, is my dad's age (with kids my age). He has an Afghan father and American mother. He lived in Afghanastan his childhood then moved to the US. He is likeable, a good story-teller, and so honest about his gut reactions to different experiences that it feels real, like he's talking to you, rather than writing down stories for a book. He is American. But he is also Afghani. He discusses some of the tribulations of his dual-selfness, which makes one pause to think of the plight of all American immigrants. In the end, there is no pity about his situation, only an increased understanding for the divide many people feel when they leave their home country for the US. He doesn't seem to exaggerate or over-inflate the severity of his stories, which makes some of his tales that much scarier. How real they are. He brings home a taste of the trials going on in Afghanistan and makes me want to learn more. However, unlike other memoirs about the modern Middle East (e.g., Lipstick Jihad, and Reading Lolita in Tehran), his is a masculine view of the world, and consequently there are fewer rocking moments. I think that men around the world are, arguably, on more equal footing than women around the world. But, in a way, this lack of shock over unfair treatment allows the reader to have more perspective on the entire situation, seeing the forrest instead of the trees (although the trees are still important).

I would recommend it.

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