Come Back to Afghanistan by Said Hyder Akbar and Susan Burton

696407Nonfiction — print. Bloomsbury, 2005. 338 pgs. Purchased.

Subtitled “Trying to Rebuild a Country with My Father, My Brother, My One-Eyed Uncle, Bearded Tribesmen, and President Karzai”, Akbar’s memoir builds on two radio documentaries he produced for “This American Life” about his trips to Afghanistan after 9/11. Akbar’s father sold his business in Oakland and left for Afghanistan to become President Hamid Karzai’s press secretary and, later, the governor of Kunar, a rural province he and his wife emigrated from back in the 1980s.

Obsessed since youth with a country he had never even visited but one that has come to define his identity, seventeen-year-old Akbar convinced his father to let him join him on three successive summers. Working alongside his father at the presidential palace and in Kunar has given Akbar a rare front-row seat at the creation of democratic government in Afghanistan.

Akbar and I are roughly the same age during his travels to Afghanistan, and he seems to be grappling with many of the same issues my friends and I are confronting — Who am I? What is my calling? What does it mean to be apart of this culture, that culture, a global culture? Of course, his journey to discover his personal identity is much more interesting than my own. His insights into Afghan culture and politics are clouded and complicated by both his American heritage and what he imagines Afghanistan to be.

His distinct lack of information about female experiences in post-9/11 Afghanistan received both the condemnation of his mother and this reader. I would have loved to learn how the role of women changed or did not change. There was one moment when during a large political gathering, Akbar expresses disgust over how the female politicians get up and rail against the lack of female actors and opportunities for females in the political arena. I guess that and a lack of information at other points suggests that things really have not change.

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