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Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan [Hardcover]

Ann Jones

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Book Description

March 21 2006
A sharp and arresting people's-eye view of real life in Afghanistan after the Taliban
Soon after the bombing of Kabul ceased, award-winning journalist and women's rights activist Ann Jones set out for the shattered city, determined to bring help where her country had brought destruction.
Here is her trenchant report from inside a city struggling to rise from the ruins. Working among the multitude of impoverished war widows, retraining Kabul's long-silenced English teachers, and investigating the city's prison for women, Jones enters a large community of female outcasts: runaway child brides, pariah prostitutes, cast-off wives, victims of rape. In the streets and markets, she hears the Afghan view of the supposed benefits brought by the fall of the Taliban, and learns that regarding women as less than human is the norm, not the aberration of one conspicuously repressive regime. Jones confronts the ways in which Afghan education, culture, and politics have repeatedly been hijacked--by Communists, Islamic fundamentalists, and the Western free marketeers--always with disastrous results. And she reveals, through small events, the big disjunctions: between U.S promises and performance, between the new "democracy" and the still-entrenched warlords, between what's boasted of and what is.
At once angry, profound, and starkly beautiful, Kabul in Winter brings alive the people and day-to-day life of a place whose future depends so much upon our own.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition (March 21 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805078843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805078848
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 16.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,077,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In February 2003, Jones and her fellow NGO relief workers watched with disbelief and horror as Fox News declared the American war in Afghanistan a success—the Taliban totally defeated, all Afghan women "liberated" and the infrastructure completely restored. The reality they knew on the ground in Kabul was starkly different. Jones (Women Who Kill) presents her version of the events in this fascinating volume, which tours Kabul's streets, private homes, schools and women's prison. The political and military history of Afghanistan, as well as its cultural and religious traditions, inform Jones's daily interactions and observations. Describing an English class she taught, for example, Jones says, "Once, after I explained what blind date meant, a woman said, 'Like my wedding.' " Jones focuses particularly on Afghan women, whose lives are often permeated by violence. Her sharp eye and quick wit enable vivid writing, as when she witnesses a fistfight from her traffic-blocked car: an old man hit by a cyclist socks the cyclist, a young man punches the old man, then a traffic cop joins and socks the young man. Seconds later, all get up and continue on their way. (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this chilling account, Jones, a native New Yorker, recounts her experiences as an aid worker in prisons and schools in post-Taliban Afghanistan. While she explores many elements of Afghani culture (including the macabre national sport of buzkashi, in which horseback riders battle for possession of a dead calf), the subservient status of Muslim women is the topic that interests her most. She evokes a world of outcasts, from war widows to prostitutes to runaway child brides. Ninety-five percent of Afghan women are subject to violence: they are bought and sold, beaten and raped, preyed upon and betrayed by their own flesh and blood. Jones, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, occasionally gets bogged down in too much historical detail, but her impressions are vividly rendered: "Kabul in winter is a state of mind, a mix of memory and desire that lifts like dust in the wind to hide from view the world as it is." This achingly candid commentary brings the country's sobering truths to light. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  38 reviews
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as dead . . . Sept. 13 2006
By Ronald Scheer - Published on Amazon.com
This is the angriest book I've read about women in Islamic countries since Geraldine Brooks' "Nine Parts of Desire." Author Ann Jones, who has written before of violence against women, finds no reason to applaud the so-called liberation of women in post-Taliban Afghanistan, where traditional ultraconservative attitudes toward women (which she points out have no basis in Islam itself) continue to prevail. Considered property to be bought and sold, they have lives that often lead to child marriages, domestic violence, prison, murder, and suicide. A woman at odds with either her husband's or her father's family, the author argues, is as good as dead. She often holds accountable the often glamorized mujahadin, who fought the Soviets for a decade with arms from the West and then, after driving them out, went on to destroy much of what was left of the country with a long civil war.

While a quick summary of this book may make it sound extremist and politically radical, the evidence that Jones offers to support her claims quickly dismisses doubt. Her visits to women's prisons and hospital wards and her analysis of the judicial system that doesn't acknowledge the concept of women's rights reveal in story after story how women's lives are circumscribed by a rigidly enforced patriarchy. While the appearances of social change - women and girls going to schools, freedom from wearing burqas - are trumpeted in the western news media, Jones' experience indicates otherwise.

Meanwhile, as she describes in the closing section of the book, the international aid efforts create their own high-priced counterproductivity. A reader is likely to be left with illusions about the West's beneficence totally upended, with statistics that show how 86% of U.S. aid is spent on military contracts and expensive living allowances for American aid workers living abroad. The lion's share of this financial outpouring goes to a handful of Washington's favorite vendors, often without competitive bidding. Finally, and amazingly, only $8.00 of the average American's yearly federal taxes actually go to real foreign aid, much of which is spent on projects of questionable value - like the mass production of textbooks originally developed for use in Taliban schools.

Definitely worth reading as an alternative to the official view from Washington and the news media. Also recommended: Sarah Chayes' "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban"
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bleak, perceptive view of women's rights in post-Taliban Afghanistan Dec 8 2006
By Nassim Assefi - Published on Amazon.com
As a women's health physician who tried for two years to improve the high rates of maternal and child mortality in Afghanistan, a feminist from a neighboring country, and a fluent Dari speaker, I am very invested in the lives of Afghan women in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Ann Jones' beautifully written Kabul in Winter offers a bleak but insightful view of women's rights in modern Kabul. Although she does not hide her disdain for President Bush and his policies, Jones offers a balanced, anecdote-driven picture of what Afghanistan's capital is like today, especially for its most vulnerable citizens (prisoners, street workers, suicide attempters, victims of violence, child brides, and students among others). Through her own humanitarian work, she accesses intimate Afghan women's stories that most non-Dari-speaking expatriates in this highly segregated society will never be able to hear. As an expert on violence against women, Jones does not hesitate to address the most horrifying cases of human rights abuses against Afghan women and girls. Though she often criticizes the Western-funded NGOs (mine included), she does so fairly and with a mountain of well-researched evidence to support her claims. Kabul in Winter will often make you want to weep and sometimes it will make you laugh, but you will come away with an accurate picture of what is happening in post-9/11 Kabul. This book is a must read for any humanitarian aid worker who lives in Afghanistan and beyond. For those hopeful about the changes following the US-led war on Afghanistan, this book will be a disappointment, but you will not come away unmoved. For those who enjoyed Rory Stewart's The Places In Between, Ann Jones' Kabul in Winter offers a perfect complement-- an up-close and indepth study of how Afghanistan's women have fared since the Taliban were thrown out of power by the West.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the real thing... March 2 2007
By Anita F. Valliani - Published on Amazon.com
Im interning in Kabul this summer. My family is Pakistani and I spent last summer working in Karachi so I have SOME knowledge of life in an Islamic country. But Im not stupid-- I realize that my three months in Kabul will be VERY complicated, and, as such, Im trying to learn as much about Afghanistan, its people, its culture, its history and its languages, as I can. I understand that NOTHING can prepare me appropriately for the experience, but Im trying my best anyway. I have literally read EVERY book that pops up on Amazon.com when you search "Kabul," and Ive loved NOTHING more than Ann Jones' Kabul in Winter. Im not one to write reviews, in fact, this is the first one Ive ever written. I dont feel qualified to recommend books, Im no scholar. But I cant help it this time around.

Ahmed Rashid, Sarah Chayes, Asne Sierstad, theyre great. But the information which Jones provides in Kabul in Winter, and the manner in which she does it, is UNMATCHED by any of her colleagues. She's sarcastic, witty, sympathetic, logical and harsh all at the same time. But what I love most about the book is the fact that Jones actually MAKES you take responsibility, there's no way to weasel out of it. I know that when I do get to Kabul this summer, Ill be MUCH less likely to engage in the drinking, partying and general wasting of time in which Jones said most Westerners in Afghanistan lose themselves.

Please read this book. Honestly.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for the faint of heart April 8 2006
By M. Torres - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is definitely NOT for the faint of heart, or for true-believers in America-the-good or West-good, East-bad. Jones takes on institutions that have not only failed Afghanistan and failed women, but whose Machievelian hand can be seen in the deterioration of governments all over the globe whose first concern is not America's. She's done her homework, indeed, put her life on the line to do it, and this volume, if you have the courage to read it, will enlighten you in the most unexpected ways. I learned a lot from this most fascinating and readable book.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't put this book down. April 17 2006
By S.L. - Published on Amazon.com
Ann Jones takes up the human side of the war in Afghanistan. She deftly intertwines history with her own experience teaching English in Kabul and writes a book that is both gripping and profoundly moving. It also tackles the vexing issue of humanitarian aid and why sometimes our best efforts don't succeed. Winter in Kabul is a brave book.

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