Book Review: Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

Kabul - Rodriguez

Kabul Beauty School

By Deborah Rodriguez

My Rating: 4 Stars

In May 2002, Deborah Rodriguez boarded a plan bound for Afghanistan.  Five years later she was still there doing something unbelievably amazing with her life.  She never thought that when she joined  the Care for All Foundation that eventually she would be running a beauty school in Kabul and teaching Afghan women modern cosmetology and how to open and run their own beauty salons.  She also never saw herself meeting an Afghan man, whom she would eventually marry.

The amazing thing about this memoir is the beauty of its absolute and total innocence.  Rodriguez was in a bad marriage and in an effort to get past it, she took a chance and joined an organization where she thought she could be useful.  It was timely that she finished her training with the Care for All Foundation just two months before 9/11.  Excited and determined to be useful, she was on the first plane bound for Afghanistan soon after the fall of the Taliban.  Rodriguez knew little about the country and even less about the people but that didn’t stop her from going and doing what she does best….cosmetology.

This book is full of stories of Afghan life and Afghan women.  Throughout her time in Afghanistan Rodriguez establishes herself and imbeds herself in the lives of the people she meets.  She develops relationships and earns their confidence and trust.  In this book she tells their stories,  their struggles, fears, disappointments, and challenges.  But also their successes, and complete and utter determination to make their lives better.  It’s a moving and poignant account of Deborah Rodriguez’s time in Afghanistan and those she becomes family with throughout her time there.

This would be an excellent book to discuss at a bookclub. Readers will have much to discuss from the politics, to the danger Rodriguez could have faced, to the women she meets and their stories of living in Afghanistan during the reign of the Taliban and after.  You could also discuss Rodriguez’s American family and their reactions to her decisions, accomplishments and efforts to make a difference to a small group of people in the world.

My Thoughts

This was an interesting book for me to read.  On the one hand, I know that Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places for an American to be, even today after over 10 years after the fall of the Taliban.  But Deborah Rodriguez goes there and while I’m sure there was danger, she never seems to be very concerned about it.  She is so innocent and willing that you can’t help but love her for what she accomplishes.  With great candor and wit, she retells her story and experiences.  She so successfully humanizes the people in the book that you can’t help but hope for the best for all of them.  You can’t help but feel their pain and sense their struggles.  Told in an honest and refreshing voice, Deborah Rodriguez brings you a wonderful story about friendship that is sure to stick with you long after to turn the last page.

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