Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kabul Beauty School

Kabul Beauty School
by Deborah Rodriguez

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis:  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 more 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 techniques, haircutting, and makeup.

Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly 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 style.
from the book jacket

Review:  This was such a fascinating look into women's lives in Afghanistan and how one woman helped women learn a skill to make money for their families.  Rodriguez seemed to have such a passion for what she was doing.  There were some heartbreaking stories as well as humorous ones as Rodriguez tried to navigate the cultural differences.  This memoir was written in such an easy to read way that this book just few by.  There were times that I was confused by the time line of the story.  I think that Rodriguez jumped around a but and that threw me off.  Rodriguez had a big personality that seemed to serve her sometimes well in Afghanistan but sometimes not.  She did break quite a few cultural norms and didn't always seem to be remorseful about it.  But overall a good read!

Rating: 4 stars

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