Fowzia Karimi – Above Us the Milky Way

The latest addition to my website is Fowzia Karim‘s Above Us the Milky Way. Fowzia Karimi and her family – parents and five daughters – left Afghanistan in 1980 after the Soviet invasion and settled in California. This is their story – how and why they left, the problems of exile and reports of the continuing horrors they left behind. But Karimi is an artist by profession and this story is told by an artist as well as by one of the daughters. She illustrates it herself, both with her own paintings and family photos, but also with her words describing in a poetic/artistic way the joys of pre-Soviet Afghanistan and their family life. Indeed, they are such a close-knit family that she often describes the five sisters as one, even though all five have their own personalities. The book is divided into twenty-six sections, one for each letter of the alphabet, with appropriate themes from Afghanistan (for A) to Zenith (for Z), though her approach is more kaleidoscopic, jumping around with her images, both visual and verbal and her telling of the story in a non-chronological way. The result is a beautiful book, a story of the horrors of war and exile but not by any means a conventional one.

Jamil Jan Kochai: 99 Nights in Logar

The latest addition to my website is Jamil Jan Kochai‘s 99 Nights in Logar. This is a first-class novel about an Afghan family, narrated by a twelve-year old boy, Marwan, who lives in the US but is visiting his home country with his parents. He is at war with his extended family’s dog, Budabash, but when Budabash has had enough and disappears, he and four other boys go in search for him, and have a series of adventures in still war-torn, still Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The search does not go well. Back home, love and marriage, flooding and even a bit of cross-dressing liven things up, as we see more of the war and its effects, with US forces still bombing and the Taliban roaming the countryside. The book is substantially improved by a series of Arabian Nights-style contemporary fables told by various characters. Kochai is an excellent story-teller and this book is a joy to read.