May 7, 2012

Book Review: In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate

Title: In My Father's Country: An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate
Author: Saima Wahab
Hardcover, 352 pages; Crown Publishers
Published: April 23, 2012
Rating: 5/5

  • About the book: This is the story of a 15-year-old Afghani girl who migrates to Portland, Oregon in the 1980s with her brothers, in the care of her traditional Pashtun uncles. Saima came from a tribe in Afghanistan with very strict rules regarding family and women's behavior. She rebelled against her uncles as she grew older, and after college at age 23, left their home to strike out on her own.

  • In 2004, she signed up with a defense contractor as an interpreter in Afghanistan, and ever since has worked with the U.S. Armed Forces as the first female Pashtun-English interpreter, and later as a research consultant to the U.S. army in Afghanistan. Her book covers two main areas: her personal life and struggles to integrate into U.S. society as an immigrant, and her fight for her individual freedom as a woman connected by family to a traditional tribal society. The other main area, and the one which takes up most of the book, is her commitment to better understanding and communication between the U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan.

  • Saima's father was taken away from the village by the KGB and killed when she was age three. In 1979 she left Afghanistan at age six when the Russians invaded, and since coming to the U.S. at age 15, has returned to Afghanistan many times as an interpreter for the U.S. Armed Forces and in 2007 as research manager of the army's Human Terrain Team. Her job was to help the military tackle the language barrier and lack of knowledge of the region's history and to give crucial cultural recommendations. During her many trips to Afghanistan, she also reconnected with her extended family in her mother's village.

    Comments: I was amazed by Saima's bravery in breaking away from her uncles in Portland and becoming a virtual outcast from her family.  Her unique gift and accomplishment as a fluent Pashtun-English translator made her valuable as an interpreter and cultural advisor. This has given her what she most wanted ever since childhood -  freedom and independence as a woman in both her Afghani and American worlds, and she fights still to improve the lives of restricted Afghani women. 

    The author talks about another important goal for working in Afghanistan. She wanted to find out what it was about the Afghanis that made her father give up his life for them. Another amazing thing about this book was how her writing made everything clear and easy to understand - Saima's personal life and goals, the differences in her ethnic culture and Western culture, the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan to work successfully with the Afghanis. A compelling book on several levels, I recommend it to those interested in the fight of women in traditional societies for a better life and individual freedom and for those interested in the culture and politics of Aghanistan.

      SAIMA WAHAB is Afghan-born, fled to Pakistan as a refugee, and moved to the United States as a teenager. She is one of the only Pashtun-English female translators in the world and, among other consequent roles, has returned to Afghanistan to work as a cultural adviser with the U.S. Army. A former resident of Portland, OR, Saima now lives in the Washington D.C. area.

    For a list of all the book tour stops sponsored by TLC Book Tours, and other reviews of the book, visit TLC Book Tours: In My Father's Country blog tour.
Thanks to TLC, the author, and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of the book.


  1. This sounds like an amazing and inspiring book. Thanks for the introduction to this author and her work.

    Thoughts in Progress

  2. This sounds like the story of a courageous woman. Excellent review!

  3. This sounds so good! I have a copy and now I can't wait to read it!

  4. I missed this book but it sounds just amazing. Adding it to my list now.

  5. Great review! This sounds like a really interesting read.

  6. Must be so very tough to handle.

  7. I love books like these. She sounds like an amazing woman. What she did was not easy and I think her story would be eye opening for a lot of us!

  8. Sounds like quite a powerful read! Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  9. Sounds like a fascinating story and a powerful read. What an inspiring woman (and that is just from what you have said in your review!)


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