Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan Hardcover – Mar 21 2006
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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)
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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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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"
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.
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