As Afghanistan continued to make the news over the last month here in the U.S. and elsewhere, our women kept up their work, writing deeply, personally and movingly. One bravely wrote about a Taliban death threat hanging over her head; another produced both a poem and a news piece about a suicide bomber on a motorcycle who blew himself up in a crowded market. There were lighter pieces as well, including one about music and another about landai, an Afghan traditional snack of dried meat. A few of the essays and poems are highlighted below.
Security concerns remain high and we are continuing to raise funds to supply each of our writers with inexpensive laptops. Consider a holiday gift of any amount in honor of a woman whose stories you love. But most importantly, please read this brave work, share it on Facebook or Twitter to draw in new readers, and add your comments in support of these women.
Recently I received a death threat from Taliban. I was on my way to work when a neighbor called out to me: "You must return home because we found a letter from the Taliban threatening you, and you must quit your job right now." "I want to see that letter," I told him.
When I came to Afghanistan, I saw all the women were trying not to wear scarves. They thought of it as a restriction. And when they saw me with a scarf, they asked me in a shocked tone, "Is your family that restrictive even though you came from abroad?" I told them I wear a scarf because I am a Muslim girl.
Deborah Grabienis a Bay Area musician and an author of thirteen novels, most recently of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," published this year.
When Masha Hamilton agreed to let me work with these amazing women, it never once occurred to me that I might find myself sitting at the computer, staring at the screen with a hard lump at the back of my throat and my eyes stinging, from the sheer power of what I was reading. A poignant little poem about preparing meat for the winter, and how the smell of turnips evokes warmth and security. An impassioned cry of love for music, and incomprehension that anyone could ban it. A father's regret at the loss of ancient stone idols, destroyed by the Taliban. A call to arms to the government of Afghanistan to serve its people, instead of itself. Every essay, every poem, every article has been a WHAMMO! moment: pure gut-clench.
I've been hesitant to write about the experience of working with these women, because I feel as if I ought to be largely invisible. This is about a life that few of us will ever see or understand, about a world so far removed from our comfort and relative safety that it might as well be a different galaxy. And working with these women, this world, this distant galaxy, has been, not a job, but a privilege beyond words.
Susan Ito is the editor of the anthology "A Ghost At Heart's Edge: Stories & Poems of Adoption." Her writing has been featured in many anthologies including "Growing Up Asian American," "Making More Waves," and "CHOICE." She is creative nonfiction editor and columnist at http://www.literarymama.com.
As my stint with the writers of the Afghan Women's Writing Project draws to a close, the news of president Obama's decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to that country fills me with emotion. It is not just a distant "policy decision" but something that will deeply affect these women whose lives opened up to me so poignantly this month. I wish I could have another month (and I hope the next teacher will prompt them in this direction) so that I could ask them their thoughts and feelings about this enormous decision. WIll some of them be relieved? Others terrified? What will this mean for them, their loved ones, their country? It was fascinating to read the diverse responses to their recent elections, and I know that their thoughts regarding this issue will be equally layered and complex. It has been such a privilege to read these words and to work with these women who shared the same desires that we do: to live and love our families. To write. To tell our stories. I hope that I will be with them again before too long.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.