Wednesday, October 14, 2009

News from The Afghan Women's Writing Project


This month we remember Rosemary Stasek, 46, a personal friend, a friend of AWWP, an amazing supporter of Afghan women and former mayor of Mountain View, CA, who died in Kabul on Thursday, Sept 24. Rosemary was remarkable, the loss is large and those of us who knew her will not soon stop missing her. She employed one of our writers, Roya, who has written about her in a moving tribute called Be Proud, America.

In other strong work in recent weeks, we have a first-hand report from a woman who helped at the Election Day polls, an essay about a bereaved family on Eid, another about returning home, one about a Wedding Day arrest, a poem about a teacher's stern response to a chalk fight. These are just some of the gems to be found on the blog.

Your comments on these pieces mean a lot to these women. Thank you for continuing to reach out in support of their work and for contributing to our efforts to supply our writers with laptops and establish a women's-only Internet café in Kabul. Please take a moment to read some of the latest blog entries.

Be in touch with any questions. Thank you.
Masha Hamilton
A Special Eid

I went to sit next to him and asked him what was he doing there? That little boy looked at me for a moment and then said: "Mom says that our Daddy went to the sky to meet Allah-Pak. Now I am searching among the stars for him. I want him to come back, so that I can ask him for my Eidi."

By Safia

Click here to read the full story.


She takes out a long iron ruler that smells like a cold wind
She hits us all twice on our palms
She gives a long speech on proper Afghan Muslim ladies
She ends the speech, declaring us un-Islamic and un-Afghan

By Meena

Click here to read the full poem.
Wedding or Jail

They told the elderly father of the groom: "We want you to go with us until we find your son." The groom was hiding in the mosque next to their house, but when he heard about his father, he came out and apologized to the Taliban. They didn't accept the apology. They took my cousin and his father.

By Roya

Click here to read the full story.

Coming Home

It couldn't have been more different from the way I was raised in Pakistan. There, we ate with spoons and forks, but Afghans used their hands. There, we washed clothes with a machine; here they washed by hand. Afghans cooked dishes over an open flame rather than using a stove. The floors here were made of mud but were clean as glass. Even though I felt culture shock, this day was the most precious moment of my life, as I arrived in my true home.

By Yagana

Click here to read the full story.

A Calculated Risk

I knew I was taking a big risk... but it was also risky for my family. If the Taliban discovered that I was going to America, they would harm my family. There was also the possibility that I would not be accepted in Afghan society when I returned from America. I was afraid people would reject me when I got home.

By Marzia

Click here to read the full story.

A Word From Our Teachers

Violeta Garcia-Mendoza writes both poetry and prose in the Spanish and the American literary tradition. Over the last few years, her work has appeared in more than 30 literary venues.

I came into my first week of teaching this group with a sense of duty and excitement of what I could give back to other writers. I ended my last week of teaching moved by the honor of having been entrusted with their words. Sometimes the best critique you can give a work has to do with word choice, and style, and imagery; other times you can say all that, too, but what matters more is to say "I will not be able to forget this." These women are writers who will break your heart with the stories of what they've seen and endured; but they will also make you soar with their hopefulness. Either way, their work will change you, unfailingly move you.

Lu Vickers is the author of "Breathing Underwater," a novel; and "Weeki Wachee";"City of Mermaids."She has been awarded three individual artists fellowships from the state of Florida. Her new book, "Cypress Gardens: America's Tropical Wonderland," will be out in 2010.

When I was in the fifth grade or so in a small school in North Florida, I was told to choose a country to study for a special project. I chose Afghanistan. I vaguely remember flipping through the "World Book Encyclopedia," looking for information about the country: population, elevation, holidays; the sort of non-information that appeases some teachers. I vaguely remember drawing a map with a blue pencil, dotting in the capital of Kabul with a speck of red; I vaguely remember pasting images of men riding horses onto a page. I'm sure my mother helped me. She always did, as if she were reliving her own school years: she would draw birds and flowers with colored pencils; she'd order brochures and cut out images of alligators and palm trees. I joked that she got good grades. When I signed on to help with the writers' project-despite reading about our ongoing war and keeping up with the news that has filtered out, despite watching films like Siddiq Barmak's Osama and the more recent Afghan Star-the name "Afghanistan" still called up the pale blue outline of a child's map.

The young women I have had the privilege of working with have filled in the map. One wrote a poem recalling an autumn day when her family slaughtered a sheep to make landi; another young woman wrote a touching sketch of man unable to buy new clothes for his son at Eid; another wrote a poem about a scene that erupted when the Dari teacher was late: the young women had a chalk fight that made them feel free "like fishes swimming deep in the ocean." I admire these young women's fearlessness, not just for educating themselves, but for their willingness to write in a language not their own, to express not just fears, but joys universal to us all. As Fattema wrote: "The smell of fresh grass made me think of you."

Contact AWWP:

For more information on the Afghan Women's Writing Project please contact:
The Afghan Women's Writing Project
Masha Hamilton, Project Founder
686 Sterling Place Brooklyn, New York 11216
Phone: 917.821.6119 / Email:

Masha's Website/Blog:
AWWP Blog:


The Afghan Women's Writing Project was begun as a way to allow the voices of Afghan women - too often silenced - to enter the world directly, without any mediation. This project is possible only because of the outstanding American women authors and teachers who generously donate their time and energy. Additionally, the tireless contributions of webmaster extraordinaire Jeff Lyons, web designer Rose Daniels and our technical director Terry Dougherty have been crucial. Photography thanks and credit goes to Kathleen Rafiq and Heidi Levine. Our inspiring partners are SOLA and the Peter M. Goodrich Memorial Foundation; please visit their websites.

Online Donations for Afghan Women Writers:

Many of our students and women writers, especially outside of Kabul, cannot get to an Internet cafe due to security considerations. A laptop at home and a jump drive would allow them to write their pieces, and then ask a male relative to send the work at an Internet cafe. A $20 donation will buy a flash drive and $500 in donations will buy a laptop for our women writers. No contribution is too small. Thank you for considering it.

Your tax deductible credit card donation will be handled by The Goodrich Foundation's secure Paypal payment.

Click This Link To Make A Donation!

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