Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

 
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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¨Cas doctors, nurses, and therapists¨Cseemed 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.

With warmth and humor, Rodriguez details the lushness of a seemingly desolate region and reveals the magnificence behind the burqa. 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.

Customer Reviews:

  • You Can't Do Much If You Never Walk Past Your Front Yard
    What a gutsy lady and what a thought provoking story. It cannot be easy to uproot yourself and go to another country in which women are treated no better than dogs to teach beauty in a land of war and turmoil. Deborah Rodriguez showed me a world outside my little haven where women are suffering the shocking treatment of the Taliban. I knew very little about them until reading this except what I occasionally see on the news. What a shock. To think that women were arrested for simply doing people's hair? I think Deborah showed much courage to go there and teach the Afghani women the only thing she could to give them pride and independence. And truly, all the women can do without men interfering is hair. I laughed and cried over the women's stories and plights and yes, it is one heartbreaking tale after another, but real life is not always peaches and cream. This is not a novel, but a true story. I notice a lot of people are upset about the two children she left in America under her mother's care and their lack of major roles in this book. I would like to point out, American men and women in the service often must leave their children much longer than Deborah did and in times of war, duty calls and does not restrict itself merely to the men and women in uniform. Sometimes, people like Deborah feel the need to help others (there is also a brief excerpt of the aide she offered firemen during 9/11) and leave the comfort and familiarity of their front yards. I enjoyed her story....more info
  • The must read for all book clubs!
    "The must read for all book clubs. The best book about the women of Afghanistan since A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini."...more info
  • Eye Opening But Sad
    Clearly a memoir instead of a polished expose, this book showed both the best parts of the human spirit and the downfalls of being human and learning as we go.

    The author's energy, enthusiasm and heart for her students clearly shows in her writing. Her honest good will and perseverence are a tribute to the best of human nature.

    Unfortunately, like the rest of us, she learns through her mistakes. Some she recognizes, others she breezes over and leaves us to wonder at. For example, being married to a man who already has a wife. Though acceptable in that culture, it seems to go against all her other intentions to improve the lives of women in her new home.

    I recommend this book if only for the insight the author's experiences have made available into the lives of Afghani women. The things they live and perservere through will make you daily grateful for the life we lead here in America and give a little more clarity and heart to the battle our brave men are fighting over there. ...more info
  • Recommended
    I have read several reviews on this book - most praising Debbie's efforts to bring skills to Afghan women as well as to provide them with a space that is their own entirely. I have also read reviews that criticised her ways and how she was barging in with her American ways with little regard on how that might negatively affect the women she is trying to help. Overall my impression when reading this really enjoyable book was that Debbie is a woman with a full character that won't let much get in her way but that tries her best to make things work to get positive results for the women. It's very enlightening to read her own experience of Afghanistan and how she almost single handedly tries to bring a better future to some Afghan women. I think whatever cultural insensitivities she might be guilty of are due to her personality and spontaneity rather than an intention to shock. Recommended.

    ...more info
  • Gross exeggaration of facts
    [...]

    Facts aside, the book is an interesting read and I believe does paint a semi-accurate picture of the life in Afghanistan. However, the writing style is sub-par and the story jumps around from past to present so much, that it's hard to tell what already happened and what's going on right now.

    As for the facts, a 2007 New York Times articles exposed just how over exaggerated the story really is. Ms. Rodriguez was not the founder of the Kabul Beauty School - the beauty school was already established, the building built and donations received before Rodriguez even came into the picture. Ms. Rodriguez described with much drama being held at gun point and being told that the Women's Ministry is taking over the school. In reality, others involved with the school stated that Ms. Rodriguez moved the school to her own private residence to make profit. As long as the school was at the Ministry, it was non-profit.

    One of the women, Roshanna, figures promptly in the book. When questioned as to her existence, Rodriguez said that she fabricated many of the details of Roshanna's story. The reality is that Rodriguez profited from her experience through the book and movie deal, and then left this women to fend for themselves. She placed them in danger by telling their stories, and then left Afghanistan for good. As one article states, the beauty school is currently closed and Ms. Rodriguez has no plans of returning there. ...more info
  • How reliable is this narrator?
    Memoirs, in my opinion, are often suspect for what they choose to tell and what they leave out. This one was no different than any others in that respect. Deborah is a very interesting person and her desire to help the women of Afghanistan is admirable. Like many Westerners though, her lack of understanding about the culture made her do some things that seemed unwise.

    The book is definitely worth reading, and especially as a book club selection as it will generate a lot of interesting discussion.

    What I enjoyed most in the book was hearing about all the different people from all over the world who came to help in Afghanistan after 9/11....more info
  • Our World is Complicated
    Just finished reading this with my book club. Creating a beauty school in Kabul is so uniquely feminine in a male dominated environment. It's like listening to men in the barbershop, lots of lies and exaggerations but women in beauty shops talk not of the conquests (sports or the bedroom) but of pain and paybacks (to men and other women). Read it with "A Thousand Splendid Suns" (horribly lovely). One gets a flavor of life in Afghanistan relative to the shoeleather scaring of the recent invasions (Russian, USA, Taliban,etc.). The women in both books are incredibly strong (suns behind the wall). I am not sure if it is tradition that makes them such equisite problem-solvers or men and their notions of their 'role'. Ms. Rodriquez' experiences are appealing as she presents the lives of the more 'priviledged' women of Kabul and their challenges. If she were an Afghani woman, I fear she would not have been alive to write this "People Magazine" chronicle of the women's lives through this American Lens. However, much of this swiss cheese of a story is true (lot of stuff left out - like what happens to her husbands and her son, Noah, after agreeing to marry a girl in Afghanistan) and my general conflict is whether I should condemn or seek to understand. Quite an interesting read, no doubt. One does wonder about the effect of exposing the Afghani Sisters' secrets. Our book club meeting talked much about the 'ethics' of exposing these expereinces. ...more info
  • Empowering
    This is an awesome book. I could not put it down. It draws you in and keeps hold of you till the very in. This book is very Empowering....more info
  • Very good book!
    I had heard the author on a radio station and bought the book afterwards. I really enjoyed her fresh and candid style of describing her experiences in Afghanistan. Her uncomlicated style of writing made the book a pleasure to read....more info
  • Beauty School Drop out
    Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

    The book starts out interesting, but very quickly becomes all about the author. Neither the author nor the ghost writer are strong writers. None of the side stories or characters are finished or ever mentioned again. ...more info
  • A unique perspective on a fascinating culture
    A beautiful book! I absolutely loved this, and couldn't put it down. It's an easy, quick read, with lots of *great* description and a perspective that's mostly missing from this genre. The experiences and perceptions of a beautician are different from those of academics and journalists, and I absolutely loved exploring near-contemporary Kabul through Debbie's eyes and ears.

    If, like me, you've become accustomed to the academic voices of ethnographers and world-class journalists describing the contemporary cultures of the Middle East, take the time to share the experiences of a divorced beautician--a strong woman with a passionately held mission--who marries a former Mujahideen and makes a home for herself among the women of Kabul. You'll be glad you did....more info
  • A Fascinating Book
    In 2002, Deborah Rodriguez ventured off to Afghanistan with Care for All Foundation, an emergency and disaster relief organization. She knew nothing really about emergency and disaster relief--she is a hairdresser by trade. But she had a generous and brave spirit. When all the doctors and nurses had gone, she stayed behind to to build a beauty school and salon (something the Taliban had outlawed). She encountered the Taliban, women in arranged marriages, bombings, cultural divides--and all with great humor and grace. This was not only enlightening, but fun to read.
    ...more info
  • Yes... and ultimately No
    When I started reading this book, I was surprised to learn that the author is from my hometown in Michigan (I moved cross-country two decades ago, but still visit once a year). So, from the get-go I was extra curious about Debbie's story. At first glance, I thought the book was fascinating, and I admired the author's tenacity and heart. I didn't mind her writing style (I thought that was part of the charm), and I gave her ditzy personality a lot of latitude because I figured, at the end of the day, her efforts were having a positive impact. Naively, I assumed that Debbie had the Kabul women's best interests at heart... even though she chose to reveal "secrets" and privileged information about her beauty school students and peers. But, post-book, as I've learned more about the story (with a good bit of googling), my curiosity and fascination with the book has been replaced by sadness and disappointment. A recent (June 2008) article in the Chicago Tribune tells how the story has unfolded, or unraveled, since the book's been published... and it ain't pretty. Since she's a hometown girl, I still want to believe that Debbie's intentions have always been above board... but, either way, it's had a devastating impact on the women left behind in Kabul. Debbie's gotten some degree of glory, but her Kabul "sisters" are paying the price, and having to do it all by themselves. Very, very sad....more info
  • The Universality of Hair
    Deborah Rodriguez tells her story in a thoughtful and engaging manner. A hairdresser from Holland, Michigan who ends up living in Afghanistan,she is a sympathetic narrator - I suspect we can any one of us easily imagine ourselves and our own reactions in her situation as mirrored in the pages of this book - and yet. And yet. Most of us will never travel there, as tourists, or in any other capacity, so there's an extra fascination with the exotic and with the dangers, small and large, described in detail by Ms. Rodriguez - fascination and admiration. She tells her story of life love, and work in an utterly foreign, and often dangerous milieu, candidly and with a vital sense of humor. I even found myself reading Kabul Beauty School as I hennaed my hair, it was that hard to put it down! ...more info
  • Great Read!!!
    This is a really interesting book. There are parts that jump around a bit but if you just press on, it all comes together. A very fascinating story. Afterwards I went on the internet to learn more about Kabul. When you read the book and you try to picture the scenery, the burkas, the beauty school, it is really interesting to see it some to life. This video isn't focused on the author, although you will see her here and there, it is focused on the huge effort behind the school.

    [...]

    ...more info
  • Can't help but like it.
    Debbie, a hairdresser from Michigan, decides to go to Afghanistan and opens a beauty school to help the women there. This becomes an interesting lesson for her in learning about the Islamic culture and how it affects womenfolk. She marries an Afghan man who barely speaks English, which I also found interesting as well as gutsy.

    At times Debbie does act really snobby and careless, but there's also a lot of humor in all this. The prose is not flowery, but as a reader, I feel that she is frank in her feelings about her experiences in Afghanistan, both good and bad.

    It's a nice book, and Deborah Rodriguez is a woman both strong and weak in a spontaneous way. There are a lot of scenes in this book that remind me of both novels by Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
    ...more info
  • Despite faults, ultimately not a bad book
    Interesting and often moving, "Kabul Beauty School" nevertheless might have made a better novel than memoir. I say this because information dealing with Ms. Rodriguez's personal life- especially her marriages and family life stateside- is doled out extremely sparingly and very sketchily, to the point of it becoming a distraction. It's clear that she wanted to mainly talk about her experiences in Afghanistan, and that's fine, but if you're writing about your life, well... then write about your life. A novel may have been the way to go: the author could have written an original story that was heavily informed by her experiences in Afghanistan, but used a fictional American protagonist so she wouldn't have had to write about her own personal life at all.

    Faults aside, however, "Kabul Beauty School" can't help but be engaging and informative. In particular, it was very interesting to learn that, as oppressive as the Taliban was, even regular Afghan culture doesn't offer much freedom or opportunity to women, and actually the men don't have it all that easy, either. ...more info
  • Excellent!
    I highly recommend this book. Some may say that Rodrigues gave herself too much credit for what others have done. But I have to admit, that I for one would never go to Kabul. So regardless of how much she did, or did not achieve, she was there, and we weren't. To be a woman in a repressive society is beyond difficult, it's torturous. I applaud her courage, and her determination to initiate change in a world where women's voices are meaningless. I wish the best for the women of Kabul, and for the few good men there who help them in their way. ...more info
  • A Fascinating Book
    In 2002, Deborah Rodriguez ventured off to Afghanistan with Care for All Foundation, an emergency and disaster relief organization. She knew nothing really about emergency and disaster relief--she is a hairdresser by trade. But she had a generous and brave spirit. When all the doctors and nurses had gone, she stayed behind to to build a beauty school and salon (something the Taliban had outlawed). She encountered the Taliban, women in arranged marriages, bombings, cultural divides--and all with great humor and grace. This was not only enlightening, but fun to read.
    ...more info
  • Has Life for Afghani Women Improved Because of Rodriguez?
    I have mixed feelings about this book. It's easy to read and certainly provides an interesting and informative portrayal of what life is like for the women of Afghanistan. Unfortunatley, for me it dragged 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 m¨¦lange of stories primarily boils down to this: 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 more danger now that the book is out and Rodriguez has fled.

    In the end, reading Kabul Beauty School did not elicit the feelings I thought it might, which was to have met an extraordinary, selfless woman who achieved a major accomplishment. Throughout the reading, I didn't understand or appreciate the author's motivation and, as a result, found it difficult to champion her cause. It's excellent memoir or journal material, but that's where the excellence ends. Does it entertain a broad audience? Absolutely not. In addition, there's a certain lack of credibility from the merely average writing skills of the author. In the retelling of this tale, 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 often irreverently, probably drinks too much and smokes. (This may be harsh, but these traits, to me, have nothing to do with "beauty.") For example, it doesn't make her the least bit likeable when we learn 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 bizarre.

    It 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 them.

    In 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. I also suggest Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time.

    Michele Cozzens is the author of It's Not Your Mother's Bridge Club...more info
  • Misguided, Selfish American Ruins Afghan Lives
    First, the good:

    The book is written in an informal, yet extremely engaging, style. It is well put-together. After I started reading it, I just wanted to keep reading until I finished. (I guess you could call that a "page-turner".)

    Now, the bad:

    The book starts out with great promise. The narrator is a hairdresser from Michigan who is having a difficult time extricating herself from an abusive marriage. (It is not clear to me why she doesn't just leave the guy, but that's OK. It seems to be a combination of abused wife reasons: money, psychological control. Common enough.) Then, for some reason that is never made clear, she gets the idea to use her beauty skills to travel to Afghanistan and help women there learn cosmetology. She has no money to do this, but ends up convincing a famous beauty supply company to fund her project.

    She then makes the first of many selfish, and questionable, decisions revolving around responsability: She decides to move to Afghanistan. That would be fine if she was on her own--- but she isn't. She is a mother with small children. Moving to Afghanistan entails leaving her dependent children in the US without her. (It is never made clear who exactly is taking care of her children while she spends months at a time in Afghanistan. It is heartbreaking when later in the book one of her sons decides to move to Afghanistan just to be closer to her; she allows this, putting him into extreme danger. He then transfers to go to school in Cyprus just so he can be on the same continent; not long after he makes this life-altering decision, his mother abandons Afghanistan and moves back to the US. This is simply the first life of many she has irrevocably changed for the worse.)

    This theme of abandonment of responsability caused by questionable, headstrong decisions is one that plays out with ever-increasing devastation as the book continues.

    After arriving in Afghanistan, the author succeeds in starting the beauty school. There are many colorful anecdotes about life in Afghanistan, and the many colorful and interesting characters she meets. They are especially interesting since they are told from the perspective of an American woman. Unfortunately (as I should have gathered early in the book if I had been paying attention) this perspective is a subtle one of cultural superiority. (As an example, she lives in Afghanistan for over a year, and even by the end of the book, she has never bothered to learn any form of the local language. After YEARS there, she still gets by by speaking English, using friends as translators, and hand-gestures.)

    She becomes "friends" with Afghan women who she trains in her beauty school. At first everything goes well--- the women love being independent and earning their own money--- but she soon comes up against
    cultural norms that threaten the school. This is not unexpected, of course. However, she deals with most of these with little cultural perspective, and which put the Afghan women under her tutelage in personal danger time and again.

    Somewhere along the way, she meets an Afghan man at a dinner with friends; without either of them speaking the other's language, she agrees to marry him and become his second wife only a few WEEKS after they meet. She knows nothing about this man, yet agrees to marry him mere weeks after they meet! (Another questionable, headstrong decision, which will end badly.)

    Near the end of the book, she travels one last time to Afghanistan. A lot of troubles have ensued, the beauty shop is basically closed, a lot of the women who she has dragged into her little experiment are now in danger for their lives. She decides to leave Afghanistan almost immediately, saying only that she felt danger and had to get away. She doesn't explain this at all in the book. She abandons the beauty school, the Afghan women who were her "friends", and her new Afghan husband as well-- leaving him and them without so much as a goodbye or explanation for her abandonment. It is never explained why she does this in the book, either-- but seems par for the course given her previous actions.

    Even worse is what happens when she returns to the US. She basically stops calling and helping her Afghan friends. The women she brought into the beauty school rightly feel abandoned. Some of them are now political refugees in other countries because they are in danger for their lives in Afghanistan. (Even if she can't help them financially, she still hasn't even bothered CALLING them in over a year. In a recent interview in the Chicago Tribune, she questions: "When is enough enough?" Apparently after you write a bestseller and ink a movie deal after destroying dozens of lives and livelihoods.)

    By the end of the book, I was left with a feeling of disquiet and unease. I really wanted to like the author (she comes across as very dynamic and engaging)-- let's be honest, it takes a certain dynamic personality to pull something like this off. Personality-wise, I ALMOST liked her. But I finally had to conclude that-- whether accidentally or purposefully--- she is also the type of person with no self-awareness, a high degree of selfishness (which is even more dangerous because she doesn't see it!), and headstrong tendencies and disregard for others that leave devastation in her wake no matter where she goes. A walking tornado.

    I am giving the book three stars because it works AS A BOOK: It really kept me engaged and made me want to read it to the end.

    However, it sort of left me feeling like I might feel after eating a gallon of ice cream at one sitting: Kind of uncomfortable, nauseous and, in the end, sick at heart.
    ...more info
  • Excellent, entertaining and enjoyable.
    I very much enjoyed reading this book. Very entertaining even tho it's true. Easy read. ...more info
  • Mediocre Book
    I had a difficult time reading this book. It didn't engage me the way many other books about Afghani culture has.

    A Short Walk In The Hindu Kush
    Danizers Travels
    An Unexpected Light
    The Swallows of Kabul
    The Book Seller of Kabul
    Three Cups of Tea
    Women on the Bridge of Fire

    to name a few, but this hairdresser left me yawning. Do you really think this is a good book to recommend for book clubs???...more info
  • Enjoyable Read
    I enjoyed this book a lot. I couldn't put it down. I found it fascinating to read about the culture, the struggles, the triumphs and the sadness. I don't know how accurate of a portrayal it is, but I enjoyed it and could see clearly, in my mind, the characters from her descriptions....more info
  • Kabul
    FASCINATING INSIDE PICTURE OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN A PLACE THAT IS AN ENIGMA TO MOST AMERICANS. VERY ENTERTAINING BESIDES....more info
  • Decent story but consider buying used or getting from library
    This was a decent book, despite uninspiring prose. The author/protagonist does a good job taking us to the far away land of Afghanistan and relaying the plight of many Afghani women. She's inspiring as she throws herself into helping distressed people around the world; however, I was disappointed that I couldn't like the author/protagonist. By the end of the book, I found it troubling that she could travel thousands of miles to live and help others, while neglecting her own children. This dichotomy was all I could think of towards the end of the book and after finishing. Recognizing "no one's perfect," I think she could have been more likeable and the book more satisfying if she would have addressed this dichotomy. ...more info
  • kABL BEAUTY SCHOOL
    omg!!!!!!! What could I say I could not stop reading this book ,I just kept reading till I finished reading it. It was a great read and you actually feel that you are in the salon with the Afghanistani girls waxing Western women.I have never been to Afghanistan ,but I feel that I have learned so much about the culture and better understand their customs. The author has a rare view and deserves much praise for her braveness and her huge heart to want to help these women. She puts the reader next to her in her adventure and really makes you more tolerant. I remember thinking when I saw women wearing the burqa that they were awful for choosing to marry Taliban men,I could not have been more ignorant!These women are FORCED TO MARRY and they have very hard lives ,lives that make me grateful to have democracy and Christ! Also, if some one is interested in doing work overseas in countries were there is much conflict ,this book is also a great read because you understand what it takes to make it doing this type of work.GREAT READ,TRUST ME!!!!!...more info
  • An excellent read
    I hesitated to start this book, what with having just read the magnificent, A Thousand Splendid Suns. But I read the first chapter and was hooked - she opens with the story of her good friend's wedding, a typical arranged marriage, and then flips back in time a few years to her rash decision to join a humanitarian team flying into Afghanistan just after the fall of the Taliban. This story is so different from the media depiction of Kabul - Ms Rodriguez fully immersed herself in the culture, and so her story is not of Afghans but of human beings, some in insufferable circumstances, trying so hard to live their lives and regain their humanity....more info
  • Worth Reading
    For all of the critics who are complaining that this book is just some book written by some dumb American bla bla bla...Well, to me, as an American, I liked the fact that it was written and filtered by her point of view. Additionally, she didn't try to hide the fact that she was coming into this situation from a very different culture; she admitted her cultural differences and wore them on her sleeve. If she would have refused to do this her book would have been phony. Perhaps some of you pseudo-liberals would have preferred her to pretend like she was some super culturally sensitive American (which is what you would have done, right) that was cool with how they treat women (rape, arranged marriages, sexual harassment, etc.) After all, we have to be culturally sensitive. No, that's not the way it works. I am a true liberal and it ticks me off when "liberals" don't allow for the criticism of other cultures when it involves HUMAN RIGHTS. Yes, lot's of the things she said were tough to hear, but for all of you complaining that she was not 'sensitive enough to the culture' I personally think that is B.S. Why don't you try to live in Kabul for one month. I challenge you. You probably wouldn't make it as you are used to all of the rights (especially you women) we take for granted here in America. ...more info
  • A unique perspective on a fascinating culture
    A beautiful book! I absolutely loved this, and couldn't put it down. It's an easy, quick read, with lots of *great* description and a perspective that's mostly missing from this genre. The experiences and perceptions of a beautician are different from those of academics and journalists, and I absolutely loved exploring near-contemporary Kabul through Debbie's eyes and ears.

    If, like me, you've become accustomed to the academic voices of ethnographers and world-class journalists describing the contemporary cultures of the Middle East, take the time to share the experiences of a divorced beautician--a strong woman with a passionately held mission--who marries a former Mujahideen and makes a home for herself among the women of Kabul. You'll be glad you did....more info
  • Serious subject, light writing.
    Kabul Beauty School is an amazing memoir by a divorced American hairdresser. Debbie Rodriguez travels to Afghanistan and opens a cosmetology school so that women there can learn a marketable skill and make some money of their own. She then alternates her time between Afghanistan and her home back in the United States (though one does wonder about the fate of her two children in the middle of all this), eventually marrying an Afghan man. (Who later, as it turns out, already HAS a wife. Eeesh.). This book provides a riveting look at the lives of women in modern-day Afghanistan. To boot, Rodriguez has an irreverent personality and a wicked sense of humor. The book moves along very quickly, and I enjoyed reading it. Even though much of the text describes the terrible repression/abuse of Afghan women, it is written with a light touch. ...more info
  • I didn't like this book
    I thought this book was rather dry, and I couldn't put myself into it. It seemed to be more about the author than the interesting situation she found herself in. I couldn't finish it. For anyone interested in a book on this subject I reccomend the Kite Runner or A Thousand Splendid Suns, you would enjoy it much, much more. ...more info
  • Eye-opening, Heart-breaking, Amazing
    Kabul Beauty School is a wonderful book - really powerful and heart-breaking. I've read a couple of other books that take place in Afghanistan - "Three Cups of Tea" - an inspiring true story - and "The Kite Runner" - also a great read - but both of those books were written by men, and it's really interesting to read a book written from a woman's perspective. The author introduces us to these amazing Afghan women - strong, courageous women who are willing to risk their very lives to find freedom and dignity in a culture that would hold them back and hold them down.

    Kabul Beauty School inspired me and informed me and touched my heart.

    Karen Molenaar Terrell...more info
  • A spoonful of sugar to help the bad stories go down
    The last book I read before this one was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (see my review) and I absolutely loved it. I was telling a friend of mine in New York about it and she suggested that I read Kabul Beauty School next. She said that it had the same theme, but that this one was written in a more lighthearted tone and read more like a gossip column. I immediately picked up this one and was instantly immersed back into the bleak existence of the women of Afghanistan and the harsh, cruel lives they have to endure. My friend was right on the money...this story is much easier to swallow and keep down since it's told from the perspective of an average American beautician, and not written in a high brow literary style (not that that's necessarily bad, but doesn't make for easy beach reading and sometimes you just want to be entertained without having to grab the dictionary).

    Kabul Beauty School is a non-fiction account of hairstylist Debbie Rodriguez's time in Kabul and how she tried desperately to help these women change their lives for the better the only way she knew how. This book makes an excellent companion piece to A Thousand Splendid Suns and actually helps explain some things that I couldn't figure out from the first one such as the differences between the different Afghani tribes (Pashtun, Hazara, Uzbek, etc.). There are also some juicy insights into Afghan culture that Hosseini, being a man, just wouldn't think to include but are very fascinating, like how both brides and grooms have to get ALL their body hair removed the night before their wedding. Ouch!

    *Plot spoilers in this paragraph only*
    See, Debbie is a hairstylist by trade and while that may be an acceptable and lucrative occupation for women in most parts of the world, the Taliban had all but wiped out beauty salons in Afghanistan during their rule. Debbie originally went to Kabul just after 9/11 as part of a non-profit organization's mission to help people in need but when she arrived, she realized she was the only one there without any practical medical or other essential training. She was embarrassed that all she could do was makeup and hair, but when people heard about what she COULD do, they went nuts! She had no idea how desperately in need the other aid workers, Westerners and even Afghani brides were to get their hair styled by someone that knew what they were doing. Once Debbie found out that now since the Taliban weren't in control anymore, the local women could actually make a living as beauticians and use beauty parlors as a sanctuary where men couldn't come in and bother them and they could socialize without having to be covered in burquas or head scarves, she had a great idea. She decided to use her personal skills and open a beauty school for the locals so they could earn some money for their dreadfully poor families and change all their lives.

    There have been some extremely negative reviews of this book saying that Debbie is an opportunist and exploited these women so she could "rake in the bucks" and leave them without a penny of compensation. They've called her horrible names and accused her of horrible things, but I truly believe that she did everything with only the best of intentions. I read the NPR news article about how the women in Kabul said that since she told their stories and published pictures of them without their coverings (which aren't in the copy of the book that I have and that I still have only seen on the NPR site, which is ironic) they are now being persecuted in their community, but really they were previously and always have been! She didn't force anyone to come to her classes or to take the jobs she offered them. She was just trying to help these women in the only way she knew how. I volunteer a LOT of my time with various non-profit organizations, but I don't think I could ever go halfway across the world to such a hostile land with such drastically different views and rules as Afghanistan, I'd be too scared to really help anyone else. Therefore, I hail Debbie as a hero and very much respect what she accomplished, even if her efforts haven't been 100% successful. I don't think anyone in their right mind would expect her to change an entire country's ways by herself, but her attempt to start to change it one woman at a time should certainly be commended.

    I found that this story, like A Thousand Splendid Suns, was sad at times, but overall had a light, sometimes even funny tone. Debbie describes all the sad, shocking stories of these Afghani women she grew to be friends with in detail, but it's really a story about hope. Debbie gave these women hope that if they work hard and open their minds, someday they can feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods and not feel like they are being treated worse than animals. She gives me knowledge of these efforts and hope that more people will get involved to help them as well. I thank her for her efforts and her story. And mostly I thank her for making me feel thankful and lucky to be born in a country that gives everyone an equal chance at happiness, no matter what gender, culture or religion we are. Hopefully, one day, everyone on the planet can feel the same way too.
    ...more info
  • my view of a good book
    Well I really enjoyed this book. The author writes in a way that makes it seem she is talking directly to the reader. She gives many situations that are sad, funny and difficult. She points out how ahrd it is for Afgan women, and all the "rules" they must follow(this is upsetting for us westerners) but also enlightens us about what other women have to endure. Her funny incidents are really light and show a comradary with women as women. All in All I found this a very enjoyable ready and I learned a lot and this is a women who at least tried to do some "good" for women under the worst situations....more info
  • Almost makes me want to visit
    TV and news reviews make war feel distant, un-human and entirely male-centered. This book beautifully captures a glimpse of Afghan life. Every page was enlightening and touching in the same way. Written in a refreshingly simple way, this book allowed me to think about complex issues in a digestible (and dare I say, whimsical) manner.
    ...more info
  • A window to another world for women.
    I just picked this book up and couldn't put it down for several days. I look at it from a point of women studies. It is interesting to learn about the way women are in a country formerly ruled by the Taliban. It is a very interesting look into their lives and provides great contrast to an American womans.

    The more I read about the authors personal life in the book, the more I had a hard time continuing to read the book. I don't know what kind of mother leaves her children willingly to go to another country for several time periods without them. I don't know what kind of mother marries someone she hardly knows as more of a lark than anything and doesn't consult her children. As a mother, I find the author remarkably selfish in her decisions. ...more info
  • Absolutely LOVED IT
    This is a book you will never ever forget!
    She is so courageous that made me first envy her and then motivated me to pursue what I so very much like to do.
    She teaches you that you do not need to have super educational degree or come from a high ranking family or be a CEO of a company to be able to help All you need is to have high motivation and courage and the deep genuine love to help people.
    I do not want to spoil the read for you but a feminist as she is, it makes me question her choice of husband!...more info
  • okay
    This is a quick read, and it is interesting. However, I never really liked the author, and it seems irresponsible for her to divulge so many details about the lives of her students....more info
  • What They're Not Telling Us
    Every book on Afghanistan and Pakistan is harder to read than the one before, in this case, "The Bookseller of Kabul", as we once again realize that neither the government nor the media have the time or interest in portraying life for the average Afghani family, especially women. "Kabul Beauty School" is yet another stark revelation of lives of women that, as Americans, liberal or conservative, is impossible for us to imagine. We are unprepared for the concept of a patriarchal family structure, where the man's rule is law, and absolutely. We are unaccustomed to arranged marriages where a bride who proves to be not a virgin brings dishonor and disgrace to her family, and disgrace, shame, and beatings to herself. Theirs is another world, one which we should become familiar with, if only through reading. Deborah Rodriguez's "Kabul Beauty School" is an insightful education on women whose lives are different from the women we know. It is riveting, thought-provoking, and sad. But there is a ray of hope with women like Rodriquez there to point the way....more info
  • Audio unabridged 8 Cds. Brilliant listen
    A look at the lives of women in Afghanistan through the eyes of a beauty school (mainly hairdressing and some beauty salon treatments).

    Deborah Rodriguez first went as a volunteer with a small non-profit organization and she realized the huge demands for a Western hairdressers in that country . So she gave up her time to train Afghan women to get a career and able to support themselves and their families.

    Afghanistan women were not treated as equal to the men and their opportunities were limited. The students own stories all so different and interesting. Deborah Rodriguez involved herself to try to help or fix extremely difficult problems these women were experiencing. She really pushed the boundaries.

    Narrator in Audio is brilliant. Highly recommend this on audio....more info
  • Good
    Came at a good time, was in a new condition. Couldn't ask for anything better....more info

 

 
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