My Forbidden Face by Latifa

I read this book in high school for our book club. We all picked a nonfiction book to read and discussed it with the club.  If it was over a different culture or country we brought a type of food that was common in that place or we would play music or show the book club pictures of art that came from the region. My Forbidden Face was the first nonfiction book I ever read voluntarily. It came out not long after all the struggle that was going on in Afghanistan with the Taliban, post-9/11.

I had heard that the culture was extremely different but as a 16 year old girl I didn’t fully understand the strife that women had to go through. I knew women wore chadri’s but I thought this was a choice and just what they did over there. It was eye-opening learning about how women had to give up their jobs, education, social lives while the Taliban were in control.

Latifa, was a teenage girl who was recently accepted into the University in Kabul but could not attend because the Taliban basically put all the women under house arrest. She had a mother who was a doctor and a sister who was a flight attended and they were both forced to give up their careers.  Women were not meant to be educated and had to cover head to foot so as not to be shameful. Women were beaten on the streets for minor infractions or signs of rebelling. Not even their brothers or fathers could help them.

There were several accounts of what happened to women not obeying the rules in this book and it was enough to churn your stomach. And to know this is a true story! One woman was beaten in the streets for wearing the wrong shoes. In some instances, women were stoned as punishment.

Latifa and her family have since escaped Kabul and created a life in France. But she and her family were forced to change their names due to death threats they were receiving. She cannot even live her life fully after running away. I really hope she was able to attend a university to pursue journalism there. I’ve been rooting for her ever since!

I think I initially connected with Latifa because she was a teen who wanted to be a journalist but also because she was so normal. Her life was the same as mine in many ways except for the culture and where she lived. We were both interested in writing and fashion, hanging out with friends, and planning for college, etc.

I still have this book on my bookshelf and I blame this book for piquing my interest in The Kite Runner and it is the reason I took Middle East Lit class in college. I’ve been fascinated with the culture ever since.


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