Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil

 
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Product Description

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.

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:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Dangerous Beauty
    First, let me say that the writing in this book is not bad - it's not great either, but it is readable. The content is a different story. The first chapter of this book describes how Debrorah saves her friend by tricking her friend's new husband (and everyone else in the family) into believing that her friend was a virgin when she got married. I spent the next 15 minutes leafing through the rest of the book, hoping to see that the friend had somehow escaped what was undoubtedly the death sentence that Deborah had committed her to when she published her book. Not getting any such assurance, I have been hoping since then that Deborah was lying through her teeth. I can not believe that anyone who knew fully well what would happen, could have been so irresponsible. Deborah comes across like Amazonian airhead - after all, she must be fairly muscular to collar a fully grown man when he groped her bottom and drag him across the street to a cop; and marrying a man who she knew absolutely nothing about can't be considered the wisest move in world. She is obviously very proud of being feisty and not standing for any nonsense, but she has an American passport and could (and did) get the hell out of Dodge when the going got rough. All those girls she "liberated" and then wrote about might not agree that their lives were worth the story she lived to tell....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
  • Very interesting
    It was very interesting to see Kabul from an American's perspective. Easy to read. I have other friends who read this book and also liked it. It is much better and different than the movie about the same beauty school....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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Mediocre and amateurish
    It is interesting to look at the life of Afghanistan's women through a beautician's point of view given the culture there, but the writing is unstructured and the author rambles endlessly many a time. I found my interest levels dropping drastically at times. ...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
  • A fascinating read!
    Deborah Rodriguez's "Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil" chronicled her experience starting a beauty school for Afghanistan women with the intention of helping them to start businesses so that they can learn to be more self-sufficient and independent from their husbands. The author first went to Afghanistan as a volunteer with a small non-profit organization and she realized the huge demands for a Western hairdresser in the country - particularly with Western diplomats and volunteers. She also had the support of major organizations of haircare products to donate their supplies for this cause. Rodriquez also mentioned about the problems and challenges that she faced in running the school as the country had strict moral codes for women to be involved in something like this.Her beauty school was received with open arms from the women but unfortunately due to limited funds, she was only able to admit a selected number of students. This book, which read like a memoir at times, also chronicled the author's personal journey of divorcing her abusive husband and finding love and freedom in Afghanistan.

    What I enjoyed most about "Kabul Beauty School" is the stories of courageous women that Rodriquez presented to her readers. Afghanistan women were not treated as equal to the men and their opportunities were limited and I felt that Rodriquez presented a fair perspective of them without overly victimizing the women. This was a fascinating read for me as I felt that I learn a lot about the culture of the Afghanistan society. Highly recommended. ...more info
  • Kabul
    FASCINATING INSIDE PICTURE OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN A PLACE THAT IS AN ENIGMA TO MOST AMERICANS. VERY ENTERTAINING BESIDES....more info
  • Courtesy of Teens Read Too
    Deborah Rodriguez is a beautician from Michigan who went over to Afghanistan after September 11th to help in any way she could. She quickly fell in love with the country and wanted to reestablish the Afghan beauticians who went out of existence when the Taliban took over. Along with help from others, she opened a beauty school where she trained Afghan women to become beauticians who could then open up their own beauty salons.

    This amazing true story is heartwarming yet incredibly sad at the same time. The reader learns the personal and tragic story of the many Afghan women that Rodriguez befriends. We learn of their arranged marriages to men twice their age, abusive husbands who will divorce them if the women can't bear a son, and monetary struggles and desperate attempts to find that money. It is also wonderful to read about these same women becoming independent and happy due to their education from the beauty school and their friendship with Ms. Rodriguez.

    This book is truly inspiring and educational. The reader learns about many customs and misconceptions about Afghanistan and its people through the real life experiences of Rodriguez. Her desire to help the kind Afghan people can inspire anyone to do the same.

    KABUL BEAUTY SCHOOL is sure to please all readers who are open to learning about a foreign people, their customs, and an American woman who felt the need to dedicate her life to those less fortunate.

    Reviewed by: Steph...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
  • Inspiring story of an American in Afghanistan
    Well written, highly personal story of a wonderfully gregarious woman who tried to help Afghani women become more independent by teaching them hairdressing and how to set up beauty salons. She sounded as if she would make a social success wherever she went and her dedication is admirable....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
  • Kabul Beauty School Is A Winner
    I absolutely loved this book and couldn't put it down. I loved it mostly because it made me so grateful for the life and freedoms I have as a U.S. citizen. Second to that feeling was the anger and frustration that Afghanistan is so corrupt, so inept and so violent that it can't dig itself out of the sand. I know this is not politically correct but I don't care. I have actual, real life experience with several families from Afghanistan and now I understand why they behave the way they do. It is so sad that such a beautiful, historically rich culture has been destroyed but the constant wars, local violence and brutality of the men. The women in Kabul Beauty School inspired me and I love them but nothing will change until they band together and refuse to participate in the behaviors portrayed in this book. The women who posed for a picture without their head covering made a mistake. NO one forced them to sit for the picture. Pictures are taken to be displayed and the women should have said no if they truly thought there were at risk....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
  • Good
    Came at a good time, was in a new condition. Couldn't ask for anything better....more info
  • Really interesting!
    I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read and held my attention! I learned a lot about the lives of the Afghani women....more info
  • An easy and interesting read
    I can't judge how ethical it might have been to write the book, I can only judge the actual content of the book, which I found to be entertaining. I got caught up in her story and while I didn't actually LIKE the author, I wanted to keep reading.

    The author makes little attempt to fit in, she seems very proud that she refused to make herself less of a target by wearing less makeup, she punches a man for touching her butt, and knocks on a supposed terrorist's door to threaten them. I still wanted to keep reading, not because I cared about Debbie, but because it was an entertaining read, a very light way to get some feeling of the culture clash.

    As long as you keep in mind that it is a biased and light read, probably fictionalized in parts as well, then I recommend this book. If you are upset at her ethics in writing this book, you may want to stay away or at least buy it used/get it from a library so you don't encourage her book sales....more info
  • Absorbing reading, but perhaps somewhat misrepresented
    Debbie Rodriguez went to Afghanistan in 2001 originally as part of a humanitarian group. In Kabul she soon became sought after for her hairdressing background, which gave her the idea of opening a beauty school for local women whose new skills would enable them to earn additional income for their families. The struggle to find funding for the school, in addition to all of the cultural and political hoops to jump through in Afghanistan itself make for a fascinating story. At the end I found myself wanting to know more about what happened afterward, about Debbie's Afghan husband, their life there, etc.

    That said, I fervently regret reading a more recent news article before writing my review as it has dampened my enthusiasm for the book somewhat. As of June 2007, Debbie has apparently left Afghanistan and her husband for good, and many of her former students fear for their lives since the book's publication. It was a great story, but I now wonder if some of the book's resolutions weren't quite as rosy as suggested....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
  • 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
  • good non-fiction read
    Good non-fiction read; hopeful. Demonstrates courage and the will to create change, one step at a time....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
  • 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
  • Easy to read, but unfortunate that women are suffering because of it
    I bought this book even after I heard the NPR report of how the women who are depicted in it are now having their lives threatened because of the secrets revealed in the book. The book is an easy read and accurately describes life in Kabul (I lived there during the same time as the author). It is not a literary masterpiece, but good if someone wants to get a taste of what life is like in Afghanistan. ...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
  • The Price of Independence
    I know that there is a bit of controversy concerning the "good" that Debbie Rodriguez did in Kabul, but I really enjoyed this quick read book. Debbie is a young woman who is bored with her life and after two failed marriages decides that she would like to join up with an NGO (Non-Governmental Oraganization) and help people somewhere in the world. She is attached to a group of medical professionals sent to Afghanistan and not knowing how she could help - mentions by chance that she is a hair stylist. Little did she know that this profession had been banned by the Taliban and finding someone who could do hair was next to impossible in this country. Westerners, aid works and Afghani women swarmed to her. Knowing that there had to be more then just doing hair she approached US companies to see if they would support her desires to open a beauty school in Kabul to train the women there how to be successful beauticians so they could support themselves and their families without being hidden in the shadows like they had been for some many years. The women, their stories, their personal trials are just amazing and inspiring. Just to know that when presented with insurmountable odds, the human spirit can still beat those odds.
    ...more info
  • 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
  • Let none say , "There's nothing I can do"
    I've read the various comments, good and critical, and am amazed. Debbie did something most of us only sit home and imagine. She felt she had nothing to offer Afghan but that didn't stop her from spending her meager resources on getting herself over there and showing up to work. While so many of us save to give ourselves pleasures, she saved to go to a dangerous, war-torn country and do something--anything. She's not a college graduate with a degree in writing, which I found charming and real. Reading her book was like sitting with a friend listening to the accounts of her experience. How anybody could find her writing "rambling" or "amateurish" is beyond me. How insensitive that boredom could set in with those heart-wrenching stories. I couldn't put the book down. Her love and fury for the defense of these women was evident from the first page. Change takes decades--maybe more--and it starts with people like Debbie, fearless and unselfishly giving of their own time and personal safety to give these women a taste of independence and self-improvement. They welcomed her and begged for her help. Money is necessary and thanks be to those who are able to give. But sometimes it's easier to give money and let somebody else fight the daily battles, worry the nights away and work on a daily basis in very hard circumstances. Debbie took donations but also gave of her own money. She suffered the stress of fighting for these women, dealing with authorities and numerous set-backs and politics, not to mention tirelessly giving of her heart, soul and tears for their good. The critics are always in the shadows ready to "pounce" on those in the frontlines. The fact is, these women were existing under threats and beatings, rapes and degradation long before Debbie was on the scene. Through her efforts, they now have a dream, a memory that they can share with younger generations. They can pass on a hope, where there was no hope. Maybe they will see a change in their short life time, but if they don't, for a few short years they experienced the joy of knowing a measure of self-sufficiency and contribution. It's important to remember that not ALL men were ogres and some were supportive of these women going to school. Without their help the school wouldn't have existed. All husbands agreed to their wives attending and none argued about the added income. Like people everywhere, some women were timid, some fiesty even with other men (though not their husbands). Did the critics expect that Debbie would change a whole culture? She never implied that nor did she glorify herself to that point. She simply told a story of her experiences, confessing her own limits, mistakes and inexperience with a culture so vastly different from hers. Through her I stepped into a country I will never visit and into a culture that became far more human and real because of her. One can do only so much, and now perhaps with this book she can shake many out of a complacency while putting a face and personality onto a well-known and oft-told story....more info
  • I couldn't put it down
    I suggest this book to everyone. It was an amazing memoir that reads like a novel. You will see the country of Afghanistan in a new light. Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil...more info
  • BIG HEART
    I think that Deborah Rodriguez teachs us a beautiful lesson of kindness and love when she decided to leave her own family to go to Afghanistan to help women to build a life for them, and even when people said that she did wrong going there beacuse of the consecuences of this book for the afghan women, i strongly recognize that not all of us have the courage to leave the comfort of our lives here in the U.S to go to third world countries to help people and forget ourselves helping them....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
  • Ugly American fails beauty school
    It's worth reading if only for a view into cultural insensitivity and the lack of reflection that plagues our society. One can only marvel at Rodriguez' inability to reflect on the danger in which she places her former friends in Kabul by publishing this memoir. Her veracity is suspect in many passages (a solitary woman crossing the Hindu Kush without proper documents?)and the reader finds herself astonished at the author's refusal to reflect on how her beauty school perpetuates the subjugation of women in Afghanistan. Written in a folksy tone that only heightens her cloddish behavior, it's hard to be a patient reader. ...more info
  • Kabul Beauty School
    This book provides an excellent insight into the daily ups & downs for the women of Afghanistan. I was impressed that the author gave up her life and clients in America to live very differently in Kabul. My son was in Afghanistan for a year - I felt like I knew some of the places from his descriptions & photos. Very delightful book....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
  • 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
  • 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
  • A warm memoir
    KABUL BEAUTY SCHOOL: AN AMERICAN WOMAN GOES BEYOND THE VEIL tells of Deborah Rodriguez, who went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to the nation. Rodriguez was a hairdresser and mother who believed she could offer little - but found her talent for befriending Afghans and her profession led to a unique concept: to found the first class in beauty school operations in the country. Her journey through a new culture's needs and world is recounted in a warm memoir which penetrates the social issues and milieu of Afghan women and makes for a key acquisition for any collection strong in Middle East or Afghanistan culture and issues, especially at the public library lending level.

    Diane C. Donovan
    California Bookwatch...more info
  • a wonderful story
    This book is refreshing, passionate.I could not put it down. Again you realize how lucky we are to be leaving in USA....more info
  • Crazy Deb, I'm hooked on you!
    Wow! did i enjoy reading this book. i fell in love with Ms. Rodriquez right from the get-go. We could have been best friends, this is how much i related to her personality. you just have to buy this book and read for yourself what she experienced in Afghanistan. it's just an amazing account of what is happening to women there, and how she dealt with the situations she encountered. I'm hoping for a follow-up. Come on girlfriend, tell us more!...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
  • 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

 

 
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