Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sleeping Buddha

Ghafour, Hamida. The Sleeping Buddha: The Story of Afghanistan through the Eyes of One Family. Toronto: McArthur & Company, 2007.

Reviewed by Rebecca Stuhr

Hamida Ghafour was born in Kabul, Afghanistan but moved to Canada with her family when she was four. She returns to Afghanistan not long after the U.S. invasion following 9/11 to learn about the country of her ancestors and to assess Afghanistan's current conditions. A journalist, she works with local people and the military to spend time in Kabul, Kunar, Bamiyan, and other important areas to her family and to her national heritage. Ghafour reviews
Afghan's history, both its progress and its failures; the disastrous effects of centuries of foreign invasion; and the mistakes of the current U.S. "hearts and mind" campaign. Ghafour discusses ethnic tensions, the plight of women, the tragedy of the large number of Afghan refugees within and outside of the country, and Islamic extremism versus Islam as it was traditionally practiced in Afghanistan.

This narrative while personal, is written with the perspective of a professional journalist. Ghafour is connecting with her homeland for the first time. Her parents were products of the more liberal and progressive 70s and were raised in Kabul, a place very different from Afghan's remote rural and mountainous villages. Ghafour provides both the broad historical perspective, but also offers personal stories including those of Debbie, a westerner, who runs a salon and trains women to become cosmetoligists and to open their own salons, the Khadr family who are Taliban supporters living in Canada, Dr. Tarzi, an archaeologist who hopes to locate and excavate the Sleeping Buddha, and Shahida, a cousin of Ghafour, who is one of 18 female candidates for the Wolesi Jirga or "the House of the People."

Not yet published in the United States, this books has been ordered for the libraries.

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