An American Bride in Kabul
Few westerners will ever be able to understand Muslim or Afghan society unless they are part of a Muslim family. Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century. In 1961, when she arrived in Kabul with her Afghan bridegroom, authorities took away her American passport. Chesler was now the property of her husband's family and had no rights of citizenship. Back in Afghanistan, her husband, a wealthy, westernized foreign college student with dreams of reforming his country, reverted to traditional and tribal customs. Chesler found herself unexpectedly trapped in a posh polygamous family, with no chance of escape. She fought against her seclusion and lack of freedom, her Afghan family's attempts to convert her from Judaism to Islam, and her husband's wish to permanently tie her to the country through childbirth. Drawing upon her personal diaries, Chesler recounts her ordeal, the nature of gender apartheid—and her longing to explore this beautiful, ancient, and exotic country and culture. Chesler nearly died there but she managed to get out, returned to her studies in America, and became an author and an ardent activist for women's rights throughout the world. An American Bride in Kabul is the story of how a naïve American girl learned to see the world through eastern as well as western eyes and came to appreciate Enlightenment values. This dramatic tale re-creates a time gone by, a place that is no more, and shares the way in which Chesler turned adversity into a passion for world-wide social, educational, and political reform.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Phyllis Chesler’s memoir is a story of romance, betrayal—and imprisonment. In 1961, the Jewish American girl from Brooklyn fell in love with a fellow college student from Afghanistan, Abdul-Kareem. They married and travelled to his family home in Kabul, where her romantic expectations were immediately dashed. Her passport confiscated, she was now an Afghan wife, with citizenship not to a country but to her husband and his very wealthy polygamous family. Drawing on vivid memories and her diary entries from the time, Chesler’s initial descriptions of Afghanistan’s beauty and her seemingly warm and loving new family made us even more horrified by the cruelties that soon revealed themselves. The second half of this true story of survival and escape reads like a thriller, but we were genuinely impressed by how clear-eyed Chesler is now about both her marriage and Afghan culture. Believe it or not, she and her ex-husband have remained friends. Shocking? Impossible? Not after you get to know the incredible Phyllis Chesler.
In 1961 renowned feminist, professor, and psychotherapist Chesler was as a young, intellectually curious Jewish woman intent on rebellion and freedom. She envisioned her marriage to a man she met in college, a Westernized Muslim from a wealthy Afghani family, as a romantic adventure filled with travel and intellectual pursuits; however, their visit to Afghanistan quickly turned into a living nightmare as Chesler became confined to the harem at his luxurious family compound. "My unexpected house arrest was not as shocking as was my husband's refusal to acknowledge it as such," Chesler writes. The author divides her engrossing memoir into two sections: her time as a young bride living with of one the wealthiest families in Afghanistan and struggling to return to the United States, and her husband's attempts to force her return to Afghanistan. Chesler candidly relates her continuing friendship with her former husband and his family over the last 50 years, detailing how life in Afghanistan forged her feminist perspective and how 9/11 altered the original focus of the memoir. Chesler adroitly blends her personal narrative with a riveting account of Afghanistan's troubled history, the ongoing Islamic/Islamist terrorism against Muslim civilians and the West, and the continuing struggle and courage of Afghan feminists.
Rambling and repetitive. 0 stars if possible