REVIEW: The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg

Originally published on 2014-12-27: Afghan girls turn into boys and back into women in The Underground Girls of Kabul

We all know that equality is a struggle that is still in its infancy; people are oppressed for many reasons, from the color of their skin to who they love, and gender disparity is practiced worldwide.

This powerful, eye-opening glimpse into the lives of women in Afghanistan starts with a poem. “But Not An Afghan Woman” tells everything one might need to know about the struggle of living life as a woman in the world, and particularly in Afghanistan.

cover of nonfiction gender equality book, The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg


The author has chosen to tell this story about women in relation to the men who hold them up or hold them back. The four sections are “Boys”, “Youth”, “Men”, and “Fathers.” Each chapter delves deep into the life of a girl or woman who has been chosen or has chosen for herself to live life as a male. These bacha posh are honorary males, and often bring honor back to families who produce many daughters.

It is interesting to learn about how a girl’s life is forever changed when she is elected a bacha posh. One might imagine that the freedoms allowed a young boy would make it difficult for the girl, as she nears puberty, to return to headscarves and demureness. But the psychological impact of this hidden and surprisingly widespread tradition is much deeper than that.

From little bacha posh to the adult versions who live their lives in fear and secrecy, the author tells the tale of what it is like to be a woman in Afghanistan, and what some have chosen to do to make life more bearable in a society that undervalues, abuses, and auctions them off like cattle.

My Rating

Five out of five stars! It was a riveting, fascinating read that I highly recommend to anyone who can get their hands on it.

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