Maria Toorpakai hails from Pakistan's violently oppressive northwest tribal region, where the idea of women playing sports is considered haram-un-Islamic--forbidden--and girls rarely leave their homes. But she did, passing as a boy in order to play the sports she loved, thus becoming a lightning rod of freedom in her country's fierce battle over women's rights.
"Maria Toorpakai is a true inspiration, a pioneer for millions of other women struggling to pave their own paths to autonomy, fulfillment, and genuine personhood." --Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and And the Mountains Echoed
A Different Kind of Daughter tells of Maria's harrowing journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny, first living as a boy and roaming the violent back alleys of the frontier city of Peshawar, rising to become the number one female squash player in Pakistan. For Maria, squash was more than liberation-it was salvation. But it was also a death sentence, thrusting her into the national spotlight and the crosshairs of the Taliban, who wanted Maria and her family dead. Maria knew her only chance of survival was to flee the country.
Enter Jonathon Power, the first North American to earn the title of top squash player in the world, and the only person to heed Maria's plea for help. Recognizing her determination and talent, Jonathon invited Maria to train and compete internationally in Canada. After years of living on the run from the Taliban, Maria packed up and left the only place she had ever known to move halfway across the globe and pursue her dream. Now Maria is well on the way to becoming a world champion as she continues to be a voice for oppressed women everywhere.
In this powerful memoir, professional squash player Toorpakai paints her personal history from her early years living as a boy in South Waziristan, a Federally Administered Tribal Area of northwest Pakistan, to her ultimate escape and triumph: under threats from the Taliban, she defies the odds stacked against women of her culture to become an international professional athlete. The harrowing details of her story include human rights abuses and shameful treatment of women, and Toorpakai's personal account gets to the truth of the matter in a uniquely powerful way. The reader is right with Toorpakai as she witnesses murder in a shop and the execution of a young woman by stoning, or when Toorpakai's mullah beats her for possessing even the desire to play squash and calls her a "dirty girl" for challenging traditional notions of gender. Fortunately for Toorpakai, she was born to a progressive family, Her father held liberal ideas and allowed her to live as a boy: "Not long before my fifth birthday, I became keenly aware that I wasn't a typical tribal daughter I wasn't a typical girl at all." At one point in the narrative, "I told my father in a long impassioned tirade that I wanted to wear clothes like my brother's.... Not long afterward, my generous Baba came home from the bazaar with a pair of yellow shorts and a matching T-shirt for me to wear around the house." Toorpakai's story stands as a reminder of all the women currently living under oppressive regimes.