An American Bride in Kabul

An American Bride in Kabul

by Phyllis Chesler

Debbie Weiss (12/23/13): From the title of the book, I thought the majority of the material would be anecdotes of the author's stay in Afghanistan after she married her college sweetheart, an international student from that country. Instead, there was just a short narrative of Phyllis Chestler's brief stay in Afghanistan as the wife of an Afghani. The experience was horrible for the author. She basically became a prisoner in the family compound, not able to move about on her own free will. She was able to escape back to the United States and eventually divorce her husband. The rest of the book was academic in nature, talking about the history of Afghanistan and the plight of women throughout the ages throughout the world. While I did learn from the discourse, I really would have preferred reading more about the experience of the author while she was a young bride in the foreign land.
Rating: ***

Gail Reid (11/05/13): Phyllis Chesler tells her own story of how more than 50 years before when she was a young Jewish college student in New York, she fell in love with and married a worldly young man from Afghanistan. All the sophistication and culture that appealed to her quickly vanished when they moved to Kabul. Backward in their treatment of women, her husband's family quickly relegated her to the purdah - a separate living section for the women. Denied her freedom to leave the compound without the accompaniment of male relatives and deprived of medical treatment, she escapes to New York through the intervention of her husband's father.

The author becomes an academic and a psychotherapist and belongs to the "second wave" of American feminists. Propelled by her early experiences in Kabul, she, nonetheless, remains in touch with her Afghan friends and former relatives as she works to improve the plight of women worldwide.

I would have enjoyed the book more if there were more memoir and less of a history lesson on Afghanistan during the last few decades. However, I learned a lot about the impact of the Soviet invasion which her former relatives escaped and made their way to New York as well as damage done by the Taliban. ***+
Rating: ***+

Judy Stanton (10/31/13): Decades before Afghanistan was in the news daily, a young American Jewish girl falls for an Afghani Muslim she meets in college, marries and sets off on an adventure to his homeland. She quickly experiences all of the issues (and more) that we have come to learn are faced by women living in that repressive culture. Chesler's horrific ,but short-lived, Afghan life propels her to a life-long study of the history of the country, through books and interviews, which she shares in an almost thesis-style, albeit choppy, dissertation in this book. While her story is interesting, as is the history of the culture, it feels like she is presenting an assortment of facts, observations and opinions rather than a good, compelling story of an American Bride in Kabul.
Rating: ***

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