Epub Deborah Rodriguez ß ß Kabul Beauty School An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

Soon after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war torn nation Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors nurses and therapists–seemed eminently practical than her own Rodriguez a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan despaired of being of any real use Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons Thus an idea was born With the help of corporate and international sponsors the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003 Well meaning but sometimes brazen Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers overstepped cultural customs and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families’ breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniues haircutting and makeupYet within the small haven of the beauty school the line between teacher and student uickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night the twelve year old bride sold into marriage to pay her family’s debts the Taliban member’s wife who pursued her training despite her husband’s constant beatings Through these and other stories Rodriguez found the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again Afghan styleWith warmth and humor Rodriguez details the lushness of a seemingly desolate region and reveals the magnificence behind the bura Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the arts of perms friendship and freedom From the Hardcover edition


10 thoughts on “Kabul Beauty School An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

  1. says:

    I saw this book and thought immediately of Reading Lolita in Tehran which I wanted to buy but didn't see during this trip to the bookstore It's about a hairdresser who opens a beauty school in Afghanistan which is hugely important for the local women because it gives them independence from their husbands and fathers as well as a source of incomeIt was a ridiculously easy read I felt like I was browsing through a woman's blog about her stay in Afghanistan Which is fine she had tons of interesting stories While I was reading I thought maybe I liked this book a little bit; 3 stars maybe?After I finished I started thinking about the author and I liked this book less and less First of all she seems like the type of loud obnoxious ugly American that I would normally like to avoid Which is ironic since she did really get into real Afghan life at least much than did the other NGOnon profit workers who stayed inside their heavily guarded compounds My problems with this woman She has so far lived in Afghanistan for five years at the time of writing this book and she only has the most basic understanding of the local language Honestly woman Stop relying on translators and learn the language She seems to be incredibly dense She admits that she doesn’t act like local women – she looks men in the eye as she’s walking by doesn’t have her hair completely covered is loud smokesdrinks etc – and yet is still surprised when the men treat her with absolutely no respect Not that she would get that much respect anyway as a woman and an American but if you exhibit behavior they associate with prostitutes don’t be surprised if they treat you like one She's insanely naive Yes most of these women are victims in some kind of abusive relationship Yes having jobs will help them No pulling them aside and saying Stay away from him Don't let him do that will NOT change their lives Two sentences and a sobfest from a crazy American lady is not going to motivate them to abandon everything they know about their national culture religion and family traditions Get over yourself She cries all the time As soon as I saw insert girlgroup of women with sob story I couldn't help myself; I started crying Most overused sentence in the book She married an Afghan after being there for less than three weeks I thought the study abroad girls here who get married were crazy this is a grown woman She clearly has some issues of her own though; she's always talking about her multiple failed marriagesmessed up relationships Also crazy Her husband already has a wife and seven children in Saudi Arabia But when he lets it slip that his wife is pregnant again she flips out Honestly woman what did you think you were getting yourself into? Rather reminds me of Kay in The Godfather II She writes like she talks blah blah I really liked Kabul I'd only been there for three days but still Who ends a phrase with BUT STILL??? What editor would allow that?Don't waste your time with this one One star for having some interesting anecdotes


  2. says:

    I was kind of sad to see other reviews about this book It seemed to me like there was a lot of judgment towards the author and negativity about the book Some of the points had validity but I guess as an American living in a foreign country I have sympathy for the author than a lot of people who wrote reviews seem to have The one thing I will agree with is that it is not extremely elouent English I am sure that this book freuently gets compared to Reading Lolita in Tehran which is written in very elegant English The style of Kabul Beauty school is not poetic is much simpler like a conversation the author might have with a pal over coffee The criticisms that I disagree with are those which seemed to attack the author as a person such as She's crazy she's a bad example of an American she's the kind of person I would run away from etc She does do some things that seem pretty crazy to me that I would never do However just because I am a very different kind of person it doesn't mean that I can't enjoy the book and appreciate what Debbie Rodriguez was trying to do for the women in Afghanistan And as an American woman living in a developing country where women are still considered second class although not as bad as in AfghanistanI can attest to the fact that this kind of life DOES make you a little crazy One criticism was that the author cried too much When you are living in constant stress from language barriers culture differences no familiar faces no friends no American luxuries such as hot water and reliable electricity EVERYTHING being done in a different way and most especially constant daily exposure to tragedy hardship poverty and injustice most of which you can do nothing to alleviate your stress level is just under maximum nearly all the time Add any other stressor and tears easily flow even for things that may not have made you cry back in the comfort of your home country I think it was brave and honest of the author to include things that make her look a little crazy So she's not a saint So what? I haven't yet met anyone who falls in that category She's just an ordinary woman trying to do something to help make a difference in the lives of a handful of oppressed women She didn't always make the best choices but she probably made the best choices she knew how to at the time I actually found it moving that a regular flawed human was doing the best she could with what she had to try to help others And I cried too when I was telling my boyfriend about the book both because of the hardship of the women in Afghanistan and also because of the beauty and love in what the author and all the other people involved were trying to do When someone from one culture goes into another trying to help probably half of the time the help is misguided and or ineffective But the intentions and the attempts can still have a nobility and grace in them even in the face of failure Being honest about the school currently being closed shows us even the plight of the Afghani women and maybe teaches us something about how careful we need to be to protect the recipients of our help I agree that the most gripping parts of the book were the stories of the various Afghani women the author came to know but the parts about Ms Rodriguez's personal life give a glimpse of both the good and the bad that can occur when people try to meld two lives that come from very different cultures and that is also an interesting topic I probably would have given the book a three star rating due to the writing style but I bumped it up to a four as my personal way of protesting the negative reviews I read


  3. says:

    Has Life for Afghani Women Improved Because of Rodriguez?I have mixed feelings about this book It's easy to read and provides an interesting and informative portrayal of life for the women of Afghanistan I'm not sorry I read it but it did drag on in the end and I started counting pages wondering when it would be over There is one heartbreaking and shocking story after the next and too many characters to wrap one's mind around This mélange of stories boils down to Terrorizing Men and Terrorized Women I don't believe life for Afghani women has improved because of the Kabul Beauty School and from what I understand because of their portrayal in this book some of the women are in danger nowReading Kabul Beauty School did not elicit the feelings I thought it might I hoped to meet an extraordinary selfless woman who achieved a major accomplishment Throughout the reading I didn't understand or appreciate the author's motivation It's good journal material but does it entertain? Absolutely not Unfortunately there's a certain lack of credibility from the merely average writing skills of the author Deborah Rodriguez often comes across as victim of circumstance She makes a series of foolish choices particularly when it comes to marriage acts rashly and irreverently probably drinks too much and smokes Not attractive For example it doesn't make her the least bit likeable when she verbally assaults a man at an outdoor market when he follows her around and grabs her backside Embarrassing and endangering her closest friend and translator in the process the friend tells her outright that she will never go to the market with her again Rodriguez brings her strong independent and liberated American woman traits with her wears them on her sleeve and it does not earn her respect from the people around her or from this reader It makes her nickname Crazy Debbie perfectly understandable Also she lets her friends arrange a marriage for her and granted the presence of an Afghani husband Sam does help her cause in one dangerous and surprising circumstance after another but this man already has a wife and we soon learn a baby on the way It's all very bizarreIt feels as though Rodriguez returned to Afghanistan after her first genuine venture there to provide aid after the ousting of the Taliban in search of an extraordinary life rather than because she wanted to be the savior of Afghani women I'm not saying this is true I don't know this woman but if the purpose of this book was to tell the world who she is and why she went to Afghanistan at great personal expense to become the director of a beauty school with the hope of making life better for the women there she has been successful The book published by a major house and the movie deal also deem her successful As for the school and the cause? A failure She is not like the book jacket indicates living in Afghanistan and still running the school According to an article on NPR the subjects of her book say Rodriguez and her newfound fame have put their lives in danger They say they've seen none of the money or help to get them out of Afghanistan that Rodriguez promised them in exchange for having their stories appear in the book Rodriguez counters by saying the women misunderstood what she promised themIn spite of this rather negative review I do think Kabul Beauty School is an excellent choice for book clubs as it will no doubt provoke a very interesting and thoughtful discussion about the lives of women living in Afghanistan and whether or not the outside world should or shouldn't have something to say or do about this culture and the emancipation of women there


  4. says:

    I had a hard time giving this book a rating I give the women of Afghanistan whose lives and personal stories are the meat of this book 5 Their bravery and determination to survive hardship and abuse in one of the cruelest of cultures is inspiringI give the actual writing in this book 2 as well as the American woman who penned it The language is very simplistic; it reads like a blog actually I started to lose interest somewhere around the middle of the book and especially after the author started injecting her own personal trials and tribulations into every page In some passages where she describes her personal relationships and tendency to be hot headed and bossy when dealing with locals or a beauty school related issue ie funding products teaching etc she comes off sounding like an idiot While it was interesting to know the author's background she spends WAY too much time prattling on about her own personal life stuff and it detracts from the real story the women of Kabul who dreamed of becoming beauticians and establishing some independent means for themselves in a country torn apart by war and religious cultural strifeThe story disintegrates towards the end as the author allows her friends to arrange a marriage for her and butts heads with political leaders in Kabul and others in the city What I found particularly maddening her outright igornance for personal safety and utter cluelessness about the cultural rules around her is surprising That she managed to live in Kabul 5 years without injury or severe mishap even so I wish she had focused her story on the women she tried to help rather than her own human shortcomings and stubborn resolve


  5. says:

    I listened to this book on CD and was loving it up to a point then became worried about her informants I'd read PRINCES A TRUE STORY OF LIFE BEHIND THE VEIL IN SAUDI ARABIA years back and its author was extremely discret so I compared this book to Rodriguez' and wondered immediately about her telling so much detail that could be harmful to the women of the book NPR has a great recap of Rodriguez essentially selling out her informants and the alleged betrayal makes me change my opinion of how much I can enjoy this book The first part was so great it made me think for a few minutes that Afghanistan would be a great place to live That says a lot Seems to me that the author was short sighted and selfish for putting these women she professes to care about in such danger by exposing them in her book And I think the book would have been just as good sans the sexy details Another troubling aspecct to me was the author seemed to be so pro woman but sort of pretended to only understand certain parts of the culture when it was convenient to her eg marrying an Afghani man knowing he already had a wife and then getting jealous of the fact that he had a wife She also liked to nearly brag that she was bucking the cultural system in Kabul like some cool vigilante hipster which didn't sound too sincere or kind to me and very unlikable It's like she turned on and off her cultural understanding when it suited her needs vs showing true human understanding and compassion Seems like Rodriguez got off on being outraged and playing the part of some wacky hairdresser When women want to be treated with eual rights it's funny to see them suddenly feign ignorance and then act like a girl when the going gets tough I hate when women turn on the girl role when they don't want to take responsibility for their actions and this is what Rodriguez seems to doPart of the reason I like the book on CD so much is Bernadette Dunne is narrating it and she's got a great voice I have to rate it low due to the harm done to the Afhgani women but it was intriguing I am a hypocrite loved the book but hated it all at once


  6. says:

    As the Taliban regime falls following the US invasion in the aftermath of 911anAmerican woman leaves her first husbandgoes to Afghanistan and opens a hair saloonSoonrather surprisinglyshe marries an Afghanand becomes his second wifeShe meets many Afghan womenand relates the hardships of their livesin a war tornconservative and repressive societyI'm surprised by the negative reviewsthis book is pretty interestingWhether the author made rational decisionsis another matter


  7. says:

    This book was conceptually interesting but poorly written Edited 080808 I can't believe this was all I had to say about this book First just after I read it I was only mildly annoyed The author is an incompetent brash selfish idiotic woman who made no effort to even pretend to respect or assimilate into the culture she encountered She bashed her way into Kabul first perhaps with good intentions and then she just proceeded to ignore every cultural that she could Her decisions were impetuous and illogical and this was all explained as Ah Crazy American She married a native with barely any acuaintance and then proceeded to be upset that she was a second wife Her first beauty school failed and she pouted and whined until she got a new one Rather than move WITH the culture she was trying to help she instead fought it every step of the wayObviously I am just as disgusted by the lives of women in Kabul as many other people Many of these women are treated like trash and sex slaves and are disrespected by fathers husbands and even sons It is an unbearable situation and the idea of a beauty school is actually founded in the culture of the attentiveness to beauty in Afghanistan before the Taliban But the author's refusal to accept the reuirements of her status as a fairly clueless American she makes ZERO effort to learn the language in the years she lives in Afghanistan only ends up endangering the women she has tried to helpAs it turns out many of the women in the book suffered later as the author fled the country Women she made no effort to disguise in her book were punished by angry and offended family members Her friends and students suffered the conseuences of her brash and inconsiderate behaviorThe only good thing I can say about the author she did not seem afraid to admit to her freuent tantrums illogical decisions or cowardice Perhaps this was just because she was able to explain it away in her own mind and saw no fault of her own I'm just not sureUgh this book was just absolutely infuriating poorly written and worse and worse the you read about the situation afterwards


  8. says:

    This book was so much better than I thought it would be When I first picked it up I thought huh? a beauty school in Afghanistan? Don't those poor people need water and electricity than a manipedi? I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author had a fabulous and uniue story to tell in an interesting and well written way Like so many people who end up in the development world she simply saw a need and set out to contribute what she could to improve people's lives Throughout the book she weaves her own story among the stories of her students and clients enabling us to see how much a hairdresser from Michigan and a housewife in Afghanistan have in common as well as the huge gulf that divides the twoTrying to escape her own bad marriage and find her own power the author joins a humanitarian mission to Afghanistan right after the fall of the Taliban She finds herself in a group of doctors nurses and other trained professionals without much to contribute She's asked to stay in the compound and pray for the others This is not exactly part of her personality however and she ends up exploring the streets of Kabul and getting the know people Despite the language and cultural barrier she uickly finds herself a part of the inner women's circle and understands what she can do to help she will build a beauty school give women a skill and the means to economic empowerment and provide a service to women for whom the decadent services of a salon were acuired only in secret and hidden under the buruaThe author has such a uniue perspective as a member of the inner circle that other aid workers don't have access to She creates her own oasis in the chaos for the women to gather and literally let their hair down At times I could even forget they were in war torn Afghanistan as she talked of parties and salon gossip and giggling At other times I wanted to forget The story is often sad How could it not be? Her students and clients lived through decades of war and then the terror of the Taliban Some of them continue to live in terror at home in a country which affords women no civil liberties or euanimity As I read I could hardly believe that I was reading about a place not 100 years ago but right now That there are places in the world where women are literally confined to their homes traded and bartered in marriage denied any economic or educational opportunity or freedom beaten and abused with no recourse and denied a sense of self worth or destiny The author gives them a place to gather and find companionship a profession and economic empowerment to start their own business She tells how by making their own money they begin to take responsibility for their lives and demand empowerment in other aspects of their lives Like most well intentioned humanitarian workers she often commits cultural errors that threaten the viability of her project and the safety of her students Yet she perseveres She reminds us that we don't need education wealth or connections to truly change someone's life we simply need passion and dedication to a cause and love for people


  9. says:

    Again I'd be a kitten murdering sadist if I gave this one star so I'm going with two I would have loved to read a short article about the Kabul Beauty School and I'm abstractly interested in the project but the writing made me want to rip out my own fingernails with hedge clippers Really it's my own fault this book is supposed to be accessible because the writing style is conversational and feels like you're just chatting with your hairdresser and I should have remembered before taking this on a 30 hour plane trip that I hate being chatted with when I get my hair cut and deliberately seek out no chatting salons


  10. says:

    This is the third book I've read in three days and all three were on different views of humanity and improving lives and none were even slightly alike but all were 5 star books Proper review coming up sometime