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  Friday  September 7  2007    08: 26 PM

book recommendation

Kabul Beauty School:
An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

by Deborah Rodriguez, Kristin Ohlson

Zoe found this book. It gives a unique look into the culture of Afghanistan. An important look. From Amazon:

In 2002, just months after the Taliban had been driven out of Afghanistan, Rodriguez, a hairdresser from Holland, MI, joined a small nongovernmental aid organization on a mission to the war-torn nation. That visit changed her life. In Kabul, she chronicles her efforts to help establish the country's first modern beauty school and training salon; along with music and kite-flying, hairdressing had been banned under the previous regime. This memoir offers a glimpse into a world Westerners seldom see–life behind the veil. Rodriguez was entranced with the delightful personalities that emerged when her students removed their burqas behind closed doors, but her book is also a tale of empowerment–both for her and the women. In a city with no mail service, she went door-to-door to recruit students from clandestine beauty shops, and there were constant efforts to shut her down. She had to convince Afghan men to work side by side with her to unpack cartons of supplies donated from the U.S. The students, however, are the heroines of this memoir. Women denied education and seldom allowed to leave their homes found they were able to support themselves and their families. Rodriguez's experiences will delight readers as she recounts such tales as two friends acting as parents and negotiating a dowry for her marriage to an Afghan man or her students puzzling over a donation of a carton of thongs. Most of all, they will share her admiration for Afghan women's survival and triumph in chaotic times.

Kabul’s Silent Revolution Begins at the Beauty Salon

When Deborah Rodriguez arrived in Kabul in 2002 as part of a charitable aid mission, what she saw appalled her. Years of bloody conflict and oppressive rule by the Taliban, driven out in 2001, had stripped Afghanistan of its beauty infrastructure. It was a land of bad haircuts, poorly applied makeup and no styling gel. To Ms. Rodriguez, a Michigan hairdresser with a can-do attitude, task No. 1 was obvious: get these poor people some beauty salons.


Interview With Deborah Rodriguez

I believe that beauty salons and beauty schools are sanctuaries for women everywhere in the world–in that sense, the Kabul Beauty School is no different. In every salon and school, the beauticians are there to take care of women. The customers let their hair down, quite literally! Lifelong friendships develop.


But all is not well in Kabul.

Subjects of 'Kabul Beauty School' Face New Risks

The book Kabul Beauty School has given millions of readers a window on the lives of women in Afghanistan. But it has also exposed the women to risks. And they are upset with author Deborah Rodriguez, who has since left the country.

Kabul Beauty School deals with some of the strictest taboos in Afghan society. In it, Rodriguez describes how she helped one of her students fake her virginity on her wedding night. And she writes of how some of her students were forced into loveless marriages, one of them when she was barely 14.

Although the book isn't available in Afghanistan, word of it has leaked out there.

The book, currently No. 28 on The New York Times bestseller list, made an overnight sensation of Rodriguez, a flamboyant beautician from Michigan, when it was published by Random House in April. The book is also slated to become a movie, with Sandra Bullock playing the lead.

But back in Afghanistan, the subjects of her book say Rodriguez and her newfound fame have put their lives in danger. They say they've seen none of the money or help to get them out of Afghanistan that Rodriguez promised them in exchange for having their stories appear in the book.