The freelance journalist who filmed "Beneath the Veil" offers a startling memoir of how her life was shaped by two dramatically disparate worlds. ...Show synopsisThe freelance journalist who filmed "Beneath the Veil" offers a startling memoir of how her life was shaped by two dramatically disparate worlds. This is Saira, part sophisticated and sensitive Western liberal, part fearless, life-gulping Afghan, falling in love with her ancestral myth, chasing Afghanistan.Hide synopsis
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The Storyteller?s Daughter is a memoir of a British born Afghan woman. The author?s narrative style is enjoyable and easy to read. Ms. Shah, a British journalist, intersperses Afghan and family history, philosophy and legends with her personal experiences. When a little girl her father told her stories about Afghanistan and later said, ?I?ve given you stories to replace a community. They are your community.?
Very early in the book she relates some of her experiences while filming ?Beneath the Veil.? She is traveling with RAWA and describes choking under the burqa and speaks of its coarse veil as being like prison bars. She discusses Taliban rules and compares them to own Sufism. She writes of her visit to Taliban women?s hospital and describes it as filthy, with no medicine, little medical care, and families must feed patients or they starve. In a lament she notes: ?they [Taliban] have corrupted all the qualities I grew up believing to be quintessentially Afghan: generosity of spirit, courage, boundless self-confidence and, above all, a sense of humor.? While her Scottish Grandmother?s diary spoke of the beauty of Kabul, the city is now all rubble.
A majority of the book is about her experiences. As a young girl of 17 she travels to Pakistan to attend a wedding and meet her extended family for first time. She relates her Uncle?s offer to arrange a marriage with a cousin in Peshawar and then the antics her Aunt pulls to extricate the author from the situation. The marriage ceremony she was attending was two weeks long with the men being free to enjoy it. To Ms. Shan the bride looked like a bird with broken wing and the women were reserved.
Her descriptions of her later stay in Peshawar as a journalist and her relations with her extended family are poignant. It is exciting to read about her travels with Pushtun tribesmen and the Mujahidin in the 80?s. Interjecting politics she notes that thanks to the ISI (Pakistani Intelligence) the US [under Reagan] nurtured a brand of extremist political Islam that, until now, had been almost unknown in Afghanistan. As regards Islam she writes: ?although the world tends to view division within Islam in terms of schools and creeds, I believe there is a much more fundamental conflict. It is between those who cling to the literal letter of the Islamic law, and those who stress its inner values.?
In Peshawar she developed a relationship with a Professor who was like a father figure/mentor. Before the Taliban emerged, the Mujahidin began eliminating the intelligentsia, moderates who could oppose them. Among them was Ms. Shah?s professor. It was his murder that ended of myth of noble Mujahidin.
Ms. Shah has written an exciting memoir. In what could be described as an adventure book she has woven Afghan history and legends in an easily read narrative of a female journalist?s experiences in a patriarchal world.
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