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American Bride in Kabul

American Bride in Kabul 1

A Memoir

by PH D Phyllis Chesler
Publication Date: 07/10/2014
1/5 Rating 1 Reviews
RRP  $28.59 $27.50
Few westerners will ever be able to understand Muslim or Afghan society unless they are part of a Muslim family. Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century. In 1961, when she arrived in Kabul with her Afghan bridegroom, authorities took away her American passport. Chesler was now the property of her husband's family and had no rights of citizenship. Back in Afghanistan, her husband, a wealthy, westernized foreign college student with dreams of reforming his country, reverted to traditional and tribal customs. Chesler found herself unexpectedly trapped in a posh polygamous family. She fought against her seclusion and lack of freedom, her Afghan family's attempts to convert her from Judaism to Islam, and her husband's wish to permanently tie her to the country through childbirth. Drawing upon her personal diaries, Chesler recounts her ordeal, the nature of gender apartheid--and her longing to explore this beautiful, ancient, and exotic country and culture. An American Bride in Kabul re-creates a time gone by, a place that is no more, and shares the way in which Chesler turned adversity into a passion for world-wide social, educational, and political reform.
Autobiography: general
Publication Date:
St. Martins Press-3pl
Country of origin:
United States
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

1 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • A typical memoir of a "superior" intellectual.

    by on

    Oh I didn't expect to have such conflicted feelings about this book.

    As the blurb states: Twenty years old and in love, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, embarked on an adventure that has lasted for more than a half-century." You have expectations that Phyllis was tricked and held captive in an Afghani harem for years and years, having to bide her time in order to break free at last and return to her homeland.

    If only that was the story, you'd be at least a little bit justified in feeling sorry for her and her plight. Unfortunately this book perhaps doesn't allow you to take up the cause of Phyllis' feministic ideals as much as she would have liked.

    Here's the truth, she was "captive" in Afghanistan for 10 weeks! NOT YEARS! Her father in law gave her the methods in which she was able to "escape"! She lived in a marble palace! Oh how terrible!

    This book took me by surprise. I wanted to learn more about purdah, living in Afghanistan and Islamic families. I was not expecting to be swayed in opinion, and indeed expected to be partly ambivalent towards the injustices that Phyllis spoke of. Instead I was moved to be offended on behalf of the Afghani family that she spoke of. Phyllis comes across as the great knowledge owner, the American born Jew who has superior understanding of feminist rights and women's ability to be liberated from patriarchal society. She is also naive in expecting that she could roam the streets of a conservative Islamic society as an Afghani wife, with the same nonchalance as that which she had in America.

    Anyone stupid enough to assume that the cultural differences between East and West are so minimal really shouldn't be allowed to judge the lifestyles that others live by.

    I was offended by her language, her shock tactics and her disdain for Afghani women and their placidity in living in purdah. The angle she takes with their lives is that they are completely oppressed and they are living like second class citizens in their households. However in the same breath she speaks of the power of her mother in law, who makes the decisions, almost kills her and plots to destroy her marriage. I don't think you can argue it both ways. When she's crying that the mother in law is trying to kill her, surely a second class citizen can't wield that much power in such a male dominated household?

    My end conclusion about this book is that she's not fair to the women or society in which she lived. They are living in a way that is comfortable, known, and accepted as being culturally correct in their land. As an "other", Phyllis has a right to comment on it, but she has no right to judge them so harshly and certainly her criticisms of Islam as a whole are unreasonable.

    I agree that there are issues such as honour killings, the arranged marriages of young women to older men etc that need to be spoken about. But I don't think that Western readers should take the notion that our culture, our ways of living are so far superior to those of another culture.

    If you're looking for a book that was written to appeal to the masses and their islamophobic nuances, then this is the book for you.

    I'd much prefer to read something that is open, honest and less inflammatory.