Title: Kabul Beauty School
By: Deborah Rodriguez
The Skinny: An American hairdresser and makeup artist from Michigan gets an opportunity to start a beauty school in war-torn Afghanistan, experiencing friendship, love, and the courage to leave her own abusive marriage. Based on real events.
The Pros: This is a really fast-paced and fun read, which was difficult to put down. There are many layers to the story, beginning with a bit of the author’s background and marriage, to the culture shock she experiences in Kabul, while setting up a beauty school there. It’s interesting to see the situations Rodriguez finds herself in, and how she approaches problems from an American woman’s perspective, which clashes often with accepted cultural norms.
The Cons: As intriguing as the plot is, at times I found myself a bit irritated by the impulsiveness of the author. She is sensitive and easily moved by the tragic stories she hears of those around her, and in her own way tries to help without fully understanding the cultural implications and which lead to potentially dangerous situations.
THREE BROTHERS WHOM THE POLICE SUSPECTED WERE INVOLVED IN A KIDNAPPING BEAT UP RODRIGUEZ’S SECURITY GUARD. SHE CONFRONTS THE MEN WITH THE AID OF A TRANSLATOR AND A MACHINE GUN.
For example, in one such scene, three brothers whom the police suspected were involved in a kidnapping beat up Rodriguez’s security guard. She confronts the men with the aid of a translator and a machine gun.
Luckily, the police arrive shortly and discover there are two others being held in the home. The men are taken to jail. While this situation ends well, it very well may not have due to the author’s impetuous nature.
The Bottom Line: Rodriguez shows tremendous courage in the face of sometimes overwhelming situations. She uses her wits, life experiences, and intuition to chase a dream she wholeheartedly believes in. The beauty industry in post-Taliban Afghanistan is one of only a few socially acceptable fields a woman can enter which can actually support her family. For the Afghan women the author meets, this book is a revealing and sometimes shocking look into their lives: their suffering, their oppression, their courage. Rodriguez discovers that women there are the same as women anywhere; they are nurturing, funny, intelligent, ambitious, and fiercely loyal to their children. Sadly, the voices and stories of these women are almost never heard, which makes this book such an important read.
The forces which conspired to bring Rodriguez, a humble hairdresser, halfway around the world to help other women escape poverty and abuse, while simultaneously reinstating their self-respect in the only way she knows how, is made all the more inspiring by the fact that these events really did take place.
Image credit: Original image