Monday, December 19, 2005

My friend Masha, an amazing novelist and journalist, had the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan last year. She shared this chilling story with me today:

I managed to get into the prisons in Kabul and Kandahar (luck and persistence) and in Kandahar, there was a 12-year-old girl. Guess why? Her mom had been shot one night by the Taliban, so her father was the sole parent, and one evening in a restaurant, he gave her away to a man HIS AGE as wife. She was balking at this (brave child) and apparently also flirting with an 18-yr-old shopkeeper. The discipline? slap her in jail!

Then I got to interview the Chief Justice of Kandahar, a man with a beard to his knees, literally, who had been chief justice during the Taliban period, so his interpretation of Islamic justice dated from then. He said "I am sorry to tell you, but women in our country are not able to take care of themselves, financially, emotionally, physically." (this despite the enormous numbers of households headed by women while men either fought or died in a quarter-century of civil war.) but he went on to say I shouldn't worry; they would get that girl out of jail within two or three months and marry her off (if he'd still have her) to the man her father had chosen...

(phew. what a relief, huh?)
I asked Masha if I could share the story here, and told her how in awe I am of her brave and powerful work. She wrote back to say "don't be in awe of anything do to with me. It's these women who are INCREDIBLE. truly. I came away so moved." Sorry, Masha, I can't help it. I'm totally in awe. And I'm grateful that you're able to capture these stories, bring them to light, so we can see how incredible these women are, too (and so we can see how much still needs to be changed in the world.)

I also have to mention that Masha just sold her new novel. I can't wait to get my hands on it. Tell me, does this not sound like an utterly profound and compelling read?
Masha Hamilton's THE CAMEL BOOKMOBILE, the story of an idealistic American librarian who leaves home to work in Africa for a relief organization that sends books on the backs of camels to nomadic tribes where most people had never held a book in their hands, to Jonathan Burnham and Claire Wachtel at Harper, in a good deal, by Marly Rusoff at Marly Rusoff & Associates (world English).
Congratulations, Masha! Thank you again for your fearless work.

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