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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, powerful, emotional
The range of this book is dazzling. From academic to personal, it's something that doesn't fit into a category. Myself, I don't like academic texts on politics or gender. I don't like worthy books written from the library. But this book is something else. It's honest, it's personal. It has the wisdom of an academic mind coupled with love and personal experience and years...
Published 10 months ago by sam

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Memoir
I was instantly attracted to this book, although I'll admit that I've not heard of Phyllis Chesler before now. I am fascinated by different cultures and this memoir is particularly relevant at the moment, with debates raging in the media regarding Muslim women's rights to wear the niqab and the burqa.

This is not just a memoir, this is an examination of women...
Published 9 months ago by Lincs Reader


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Memoir, 7 Oct 2013
By 
Lincs Reader (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
I was instantly attracted to this book, although I'll admit that I've not heard of Phyllis Chesler before now. I am fascinated by different cultures and this memoir is particularly relevant at the moment, with debates raging in the media regarding Muslim women's rights to wear the niqab and the burqa.

This is not just a memoir, this is an examination of women and their freedom; of culture and of history and Chesler's passion for human rights shines through in her writing.

Phyllis Chesler was an ordinary American, aged eighteen, she fell in love with the dark and handsome Abdul-Kareem. They adored each other, discussing music and literature for hours, watching exotic foreign films, sharing the all-American hamburger and eventually sleeping together. Theirs was a modern romance, between them they believe that they can conquer the world, their love will see them through. Phyllis is Jewish, Abdul-Kareem is Muslim, from Afghanistan - they don't discuss religion.
When they marry and travel to Afghanistan, Phyllis is excited. She can't wait to see his country, to discover new things, to eat different food, they have their whole life ahead of them. Once on Afghan soil however, things change. Abdul-Kareem changes, he is no longer the Westernised young man that she married. Returning to his homeland has meant a return to a culture where women have no rights, cannot walk about alone, and must do as their husbands tell them.

Phyllis rebelled. Used to her freedom and having choices, she did everything she could to keep her identity. There were times when her decisions were obviously very wrong; sunbathing in a skimpy bikini was not a good choice! Phyllis wanted to learn about her new home, she wanted to explore, she was happy to wear the beautiful silks, but she wanted to do it on her terms.

There were times whilst I was reading this book when I felt like shouting at Phyllis, I wanted to tell her to give them a chance, to appreciate that she was no longer living in free America. But let's face it, she was badly let down by her new husband, not once did he warn her what would be expected of her, not once did he give any sign that he was anything other than a regular guy, living the American dream, just like her.

Phyllis's experience was awful. Luckily, she managed to flee, and today she has a fairly good relationship with Abdul-Kareem, but her experiences in Afghanistan have clearly moulded her into the woman that she is today.

This is an engaging and well-written memoir that is powerful in it's message and often very emotional.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, powerful, emotional, 27 Sep 2013
By 
sam (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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The range of this book is dazzling. From academic to personal, it's something that doesn't fit into a category. Myself, I don't like academic texts on politics or gender. I don't like worthy books written from the library. But this book is something else. It's honest, it's personal. It has the wisdom of an academic mind coupled with love and personal experience and years of reflection on a painful, painful moment. It's a true memoir and a beautiful, fascinating story. It's so good, I gave pre-order copy as a gift and will order my own copy.

It's not for everyone, for sure. And the truth is so strong, she can't settle on it right away, and has to circle back to the present constantly; breaking the "4th wall" and addressing the reader directly. For me, she's trying to unpick decades of assumptions, the key one being acceptance of other ways of life as being equal. All people are equal, for sure, but not all cultures are equally worthwhile; it's not just another way of living, it's actually just worse, it's brutal, it's emotionally crippling, it produces learned helplessness, it doesn't produce. Sadly, it's also very durable.

All this would a dry lecture if it weren't for the personal, the memoir, the romantic hope of the young Phyllis. Even though you know from the start that she has been a fool, the tragedy has fired her whole life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clash of two cultures, 17 Jan 2014
By 
paul kilpatrick (irelande / Uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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I ordered this primarily for my wife - a true story of an young American woman, from a orthodox Jewish family in New York, who falls in love with an Afghan, converts to Islam, marries him and goes to live with him in Kabul. Suffice to say that cultural differences that did not seem so important when they were both in the USA, become insurmountable once they are living within the very rigid confines and expectations of traditional Afghan society. The book gives a fascinating insight into the clash of two worldviews; i.e. modern Western liberalism versus a traditional Muslim society where women are expected to know their place and remain very much in the background. It's an interesting and informative read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, insightful book with an important message, 14 Jan 2014
By 
J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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This is a book of two halves. The first is a story of an intelligent but naive young Jewish student who falls in love with a sophisticated Afghan heir who is studying abroad in New York. It begins as a love story but turns into something much darker when the newlyweds return to the groom's homeland and Chesler experiences firsthand what it is like to be an Afghan wife, and experience that nearly killed her and ultimately shaped her future as a Muslim-critical feminist. For me, this is by far the strongest half of the book. It is a gripping and heart-wrenching story made all the more powerful because it is told by the woman who lived it, now half a century older and imbued with all the wisdom that comes of heartbreak, and yet still full of affection for Eastern culture, her estranged husband and his family.

The second half of the book is much less personal and centres more on Chesler's development as a feminist and outspoken critic in particular of the treatment of women in Muslim cultures. It is very informative and there is much food for thought, but it is considerably more dry than her own story. Further, there are times when it seems Chesler's own cultural biases come into play and this appears to affect her writing occasionally.

The story as a whole raises some interesting points - here in the West, many liberal thinkers are slow to criticise aspects of Islam because Islamophobia is so rife, but there are particular aspects - more to do with Muslim culture than religion - that absolutely need to be brought into the open and judged for what they really are: a rod to keep women "in their place".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous book, 5 Jan 2014
By 
Four Violets (Hertford UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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This book absolutely resonated with me because I have gone through some very similar experiences to Phyllis Chesler, although in my case the country I briefly lived in was Saudi Arabia.
The book is very much in two parts, we are barely half way through the book before Phyllis, having fallen in love and moved to Afghanistan, swiftly realises her mistake, and within just a few months so far as I can tell, succeeds in escaping back to America.
The second half of the book is about the history of Aghanistan, "gender apartheid," the horrors of honour killings and in general the dangers of extreme fanaticism. We are brought up to date with her husband and his second wife, now living in America.

She captures well the shock of realising you are actually stuck in the house and not expected, or indeed in my case allowed, to leave unaccompanied. And the shock of realising what it actually means to be treated in a kind way, but in a way that also makes you very aware that you are not regarded as quite as fully human as a male. Where your naked face is seen as "the same as the fully bared breasts of a prostitute."

Yes, the author was young, nave and silly, and was possibly lucky to get out alive, but I was equally young and nave and equally lucky to escape with nothing worse than stones thrown at me for my audacity in showing my face (otherwise covered from neck to toes) injudiciously in the street
True, "if one is young, female, and even mildly attractive, men are all over you," - this comment by Chesler did not refer to her husband's compatriots but to Westerners - but there should be boundaries of behaviour, and boundaries as to how one sex can dictate how the other one lives - and dies.
The sections about 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden I found fascinating - for example I had no idea he was one of 57 children or that he was banished from Saudi Arabia in 1992.

What is very courageous of the author, the book is a loud shout out to whoever will listen about the dangers of Islam taken to extremes.

One of our well known and best loved presenters and comedians was quoted last week as saying "there are people out there without a sense of humour and they're heavily armed."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating memoir - an American woman in Afghanistan., 31 Oct 2013
By 
JK "Julie K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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A memoir of several parts with by far the most interesting being the first which charts Phyllis Chesler's journey from single American/Jewish woman, living in New York, to married woman living with her Muslim family in Afghanistan.

The biggest wake up call for Phyllis, a sign she was out of her depth, was the shock of having her American passport confiscated on arrival in Afghanistan. An act which had the effect of barring her from independent travel, imprisoning her in the Country and reducing her to the status of 'property' belonging to her husband Abdul Kareem. Phyllis made the decision to hand over that vital document and enter into the world of the burqa, the niqab and Muslim women. I think it's important to highlight that Phyllis did this of her own free will, despite her own misgivings, and without any force. That sense of impulsive disregard for her own safety became quite a theme for this head strong young woman whose need for adventure and experience frequently overwhelmed her common sense.

Initially Phyllis is overwhelmed by her beautiful home, the feasting, the warmth of her extended family and the exotic beauty surrounding her. Her new family are very accepting of her American/Jewish culture but, unfortunately, as the days roll by the loss of what she sees as her basic, Western, freedoms begin to erode her happiness and Phyllis becomes trapped in a life of uncertainty, unfamiliarity, tedium and isolation. Her happiness dissolves into depression which culminates in a host of unfortunate events, deeply traumatic for all involved, and ultimately leading to the breakdown of her relationship with Abdul Kareem.

Much of the memoir is focussed upon the day to day life of a wealthy household with a a great many 'servants'. With her husband away for huge chunks of time there was little for Phyllis to do but observe and record what took place around her with the addition of her feelings of frustration and misery. That works quite well but; the fatal flaw for this particular journal is the use of additional historical, cultural, geographical information and the constant cross referencing to the past. The additional information is fascinating but has the effect of breaking the concentration as it's often more powerful and thought provoking than the memoir.

Overall this is an interesting account but by far the most interesting aspects are the history and culture of Afghanistan and it's people. As the story moved along I began to feel thoroughly irritated by the young Phyllis Chesler and failed to bond with her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I did not enjoy it., 3 July 2014
By 
bookworm8 "bookworm8" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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Chesler returned from Kabul after 10 weeks. From the blurb I'd imagined she was there at least several years. Her account is brief, repetitive and reveals a self-centred woman who gave no thought to attempting to respect the culture she married into. No wonder her father-in-law gave her a ticket back to America. If you want to know about life in Kabul, read something else. If you want a short account of a selfish woman who lived very briefly in Kabul, this might fit the bill. I did not enjoy it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful story and message, 26 May 2014
By 
Andy_atGC (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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This book invokes empathy and relates a highly complex situation that may have some elements in common for those familiar with relationships that cross certain everyday borders.

In the 1950's, it is probable that few in the USA knew of Afghanistan, its location and geography, history, religions and customs, language or people and the writer, although highly educated, was perhaps little different. Minimising personal ignorance and possibly with unrealistic expectations, she entered into a relationship and marriage with an Afghan national. The effect was very similar to the many 'G.I. Bride' marriages from the mid-1940s and a few years beyond where reality almost always fell far short of expectation.

In highly conservative 1950s America, and to a lesser extent elsewhere, such a marriage would have been perceived as highly improbable and would attract some curiosity. However, this biography concerns just one such marriage and its broader consequences. It is clear that both partners may well have been partially blinkered and failed to understand, accept or respect the expectations of the other. That problems existed within the marriage may not be a surprise to the reader who may be aware of the reported consequences of some modern-day equivalents, but it was to those involved. A subsequent near-death situation for the bride and the eventual collapse of the marriage were just two of its results.

When words and phrases such as 'harrowing ordeal', 'trapped' and 'freedom' are used within its rear cover précis, the reader may understand just why its writer felt obligated to relate her experiences in the book.

After leaving her marriage and returning to the US, the writer resumed her career and later was awarded a professorship, appeared on several TV shows, on news stations and in the press to tell portions of her story. This book contains the details of very nearly her entire adult life.

This is an interesting book with the knowledge and experience of one who now knows the potential pitfalls of her former relationship. Having the wisdom after the event may help others avoid the same or similar problems today.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love is Blind, An Amazing Memoir that moves from the personal to the cultural differences in gender politics., 2 Jan 2014
By 
elsie purdon "reads too much" (dorset uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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I was very impressed with this memoir. I had not come across this writer before and I had no preconceptions about her.
She fell in love with a handsome young Afghan man while they were both studying in New York at the end of the 1950's.
He seemed perfect, charming and intelligent. They shared dreams of travelling and writing plays, and making films together. They wanted to have a rich and varied life together. Phyllis was a Jew, of Orthodox parents, He was a Muslim, neither of the pair seemed to see this as an issue. It is only upon arriving in Afghanistan that reality bites and Phyllis has the shock of her life.
Clearly she was naive, but who isn't at that age, I know I was. Also the world was different and a lot less known about other countries. Coming from a liberal western country it is hard to imagine the oppression that can exist in other parts of the world.
This is one of the most powerful and interesting books I have read.
This is an amazing memoir that moves from the personal to the cultural differences in gender politics.
Time and time again I see the situation in Afghanistan and other Islamic countries downplayed in terms of what it means to be a female there. This book goes right to the heart of the issue.
Here Phyllis starts with her story, a love story, and then moves to her actual experiences in Kabul with her new husband and his family. Then onto a broader picture including references to other books, other writers, other accounts, all telling the same stark and cruel reality that men see women as possessions or even as sub-human. They never see us as being their equal.
The cultural attitudes are so very deep they will not be changed by anything the West has to say or by sending troops over there. This issue is very complex. The Soviet invasion has created many thousands of refugees to Pakistan, a situation which has since been exploited by Al-Queda and the Taliban.
Phyllis does give very detailed descriptions of the way the tribal cultures have remained in place for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
She shows no animosity towards Afghanistan or it's people. She is ambivalent, and I think that is fair and that in this book she is laying out her experiences and how and why she thinks the way she does.
I feel I have learnt a lot reading this book. I will reread it many times I am sure and I want to buy extra copies to give to friends.
I had never heard of Phyllis Chesler before, but in fact she has written many books and I intend to read at least one more as I am now a fan of hers.
She is now in her seventies and has spent her life studying, working and writing.
Definitely recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and fascinating, 11 Dec 2013
By 
Zipster Zeus (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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A fascinating insight into one woman's experience of an entirely different culture and operates on so many different levels- the personal, the political and the spiritual. It's a very honest account and the author admirably faces up to her own initial naivety as in the early 60s she, as a twenty year old New Yorker, married a Muslim man and moved to Kabul to be his wife. The story she tells of her subsequent, lengthy time in Afghanistan though is filled with a balanced awareness of the culture she had become trapped in and the nature of her first-hand experience of gender apartheid. A worthwhile read.
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An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir
An American Bride in Kabul: A Memoir by Phyllis Chesler (Hardcover - 1 Oct 2013)
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