art & literature

Nine Authors Who Will Teach You About Afghanistan

Sheena Joseph | Jul 19 2021
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Afghanistan is going through a humanitarian crisis, and it is about to spiral out of control. Since US president Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of American military troops from Afghan soil, the Taliban has been aggressively seizing more and more strategically important regions. They even claimed to control 85% of the country.

What does it mean to the common layman of Afghanistan? And how is the future looking for women and girls? The Taliban is known to have extreme views on the chastity and dignity of women.

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), around 200,000 Afghans have been internally displaced in 2021 alone. 18 million people are in extreme need of aid and assistance to survive. Over 10 million people are suffering from acute malnutrition. Over 50% of the children under the age of five are suffering from hunger.

This is a country that has been going through a war crisis since 1978. Many authors have taken it upon themselves to let the world know their stories. Here are some such writers and their books to help you understand the past as well as the current situation in Afghanistan.

1) Nadia Hashimi

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Nadia Hashimi is an American-born Afghan woman. Her parents came to the USA in the early 70s. They had intentions of returning to Afghanistan but did not follow through with the plan after the country fell into turmoil as a result of the Soviet invasion. She grew up to become the author of three bestselling novels - ‘The Pearl that Broke Its Shell’, ‘When the Moon Is Low’, and ‘A House Without Windows’.

‘The Pearl that Broke its Shell’ is the story of two women living a century apart but connected by legacy. One of her main characters is a girl who dresses up as a boy to earn work and escort her sisters to school.

2) Khaled Hosseini

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Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul to a diplomat father. His family sought asylum in the US when he was 15 and did not return to Afghanistan until he was 38. The main character in his first novel, ‘The Kite Runner’, goes through a similar timeline in his life. Hosseini often admitted to feeling survivor's guilt about escaping the Soviet invasion and subsequent wars.

His debut novel tells the story of two boys in Afghanistan and their friendship. Following his critical and commercial success, he became a full-time writer. His next novels 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' and 'And the Mountains Echoed' are also set in Afghanistan. Family, friendship, and the struggles of living in a war-torn country are recurring themes in his novels.

Following his success as a writer, he became an advocate for refugees and established a foundation to support people returning to Afghanistan.

3) Farzana Marie

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Farzana Marie is most popular for compiling and translating the poetry collection 'Load Poems like Guns'. She served in the US Air Force for over six years and two of them were in Afghanistan. She later worked as a civilian volunteer in an orphanage in Kabul for two years. Marie is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Arizona where she focuses on Persian literature. She has been translating poems and journals from Persian since working in Kabul. 'Load Poems like Guns' is written by eight Afghan women poets from Herat, a town known for being the epicentre of literature and arts in the old days.

4) Tamim Ansary

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Tamim Ansary is another Kabul-born writer who moved to the US in high school. He is most popular for writing an email as a response to a call to bomb Afghanistan "into the Stone Age". He warned that the conflict between the Taliban and the US can lead to a third World War. His book 'West of Kabul, East of New York' is a memoir that offers a bicultural perspective on contemporary world conflicts. His novel 'The Widow's Husband' is set in the British invasion of Afghanistan in the 19th century. He offers both an Afghan and a British perspective in the novel.

5) Atiq Rahimi

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Atiq Rahimi is a Kabul-born writer who sought political asylum in France following the Soviet invasion. He wrote his first book 'Earth and Ashes' in 2000. It was written in Dari (a dialect of Persian) and became an instant bestseller in Europe and South America after it was translated. His other popular work is 'The Patience Stone' which tells the story of a woman whose husband returned from war and is paralysed. He also adapted both his books to films. He returned to Afghanistan in 2002 and started working with the nation's largest media group - Moby Group. 

6) Saira Shah

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Saira Shah is a British writer and documentary filmmaker born to Persian parents. Her father was an Afghan writer of books on Sufism, and her mother is Parsi. When she was 21, Saira came to Peshawar, Afghanistan, and worked as a reporter covering the Soviet invasion for three years. Her book 'The Storyteller's daughter' is a memoir that reflects her identity as a woman shaped by two vastly different worlds. She also reveals her experiences of recording women's lives oppressed by the Taliban.

7) Atia Abawi

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Atia Abawi is a German-born to Afghan parents who fled the country after the Soviet invasion. The family later moved to the US. Abawi worked in Kabul for five years as a foreign correspondent for NBC and CNN. Her first book 'The Secret Sky: A Novel for Forbidden Love in Afghanistan' is inspired by the people she met in Afghanistan. The YA novel tells the story of Fatima, a Hazara girl and Samiullah, a Pashtun boy. The novel received critical acclaim for the accurate portrayal of the country, diverse characters, and strong women.

8) Thomas Barfield


Thomas Barfield is the author for those who want an academic perspective about the history of Afghanistan. His book 'Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History' talks about everything from the Mughal Empire in the 16th century to the ongoing Taliban resurgence. He even shares details about the tribal and ethnic groups of Afghanistan. Barfield explains how Afghanistan's efforts to throw out colonisers later rendered the nation much more difficult to govern in the future.

9) Homeira Qaderi

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Homeira Qaderi is an Afghan writer who spent her childhood hiding from the Soviets and adolescence fighting the draconian edicts of the Taliban. She was born in Kabul to an artist mother and a father, who was a high school teacher. At 13, she was homeschooling children in secret against the rules of the Taliban. Homeira is an advocate for women's rights and even received the Malalai Medal for exceptional bravery from Afghanistan's President, Ashraf Ghani. Her book 'Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother's Letter to Her Son' is a memoir she wrote for her own son whom she was forced to leave behind.