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Born in , Pazira grew up largely in Kabul, and her family escaped first to Pakistan in , then as refugees to Canada, toward the end of the Soviet occupation of her home country. This is an important book, not for its literary quality, but for the delicacy with which it shows the force of two competing outside powers pulling a country to pieces. The Soviets tugged at one end of the rope, and the American-backed mujahidin at the other.
Between them, they pulled a knot so tight that they left a country full of innocent people gasping for space to think, to breathe, to live. As the Soviets pushed themselves into Afghanistan, the other side took further refuge in more extreme religion, to mark themselves as truly holy warriors, and it was they whom the Americans supported almost unconditionally.
In , the U. As she grows up and becomes a refugee, she weaves these tales in with her secret return to Afghanistan as an adult, searching for her girlhood friend whose letters had stopped arriving. She later co-performed and co-produced the movie Kandahar , loosely based on this failed search for her friend Diana. The book starts out slowly enough despite the tale of the child Pazira visiting her father in prison , exacerbated by the journalistic distance that Pazira excels at, that I had serious doubts about whether it was going to be any good or not.
Too many factual paragraphs about who was in charge and how they came to be there, too little narrative that kept my imagination with her. But I kept reading because I thought it would at least be educational, given my never-quenched interest in the Middle East.
Pazira grew up hating the Soviet Union and anything to do with Russia. On a personal note, I found her experiences the tiniest bit eerie. The sight of them nurtured an understandable loathing, anger, and patriotism in her heart. When she got older, she joined an underground resistance movement that supported the holy soldiers, fighting for liberation.