I’ve always been a little intrigued by Afghan women, especially during the time of the Taliban. The Kabul Beauty School took me into a whole new culture and world where women have very different roles and almost every aspect of their lives dramatically changed when the Taliban took over the nation. The triumphs of Afghan women under the strict Taliban regime fascinates me and reminds me that anything in this world is possible, even for women.
Deborah Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan went to Afghanistan to offer humanitarian aid to the war-torn country. When she arrived, she was surrounded y men and women whose skills as doctors, nurses and therapists – seemed more practical than her own, and so she felt of little use, though eager to help make a difference. Having been acquainted with some of the locals, she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known, she was sought out by Westerners and by Afghan women for a good haircut. Afghan women have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons, thus the idea of opening up a beauty school was born.
Rodriquez yearned to make a difference despite struggling with the language barrier, overstepping cultural customs and constantly juggling the challenged of a postwar nation, she began to empower Afghan women by teaching them fundamental beauty techniques that would allow them to become their families’ breadwinners.
It was lovely to see that the Afghan women that Rodriguez started teaching, took a profound liking to her and would share their stories, and their hearts: the newlyweds who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride sold into marriage to pay for her families debts, the Taliban member’s wife who pursued her training despite her husband’s constant physical abuse.
The Kabul Beauty School is a tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together to learn the arts of beauty, friendship and freedom. It touched my heart and was a pleasant read.
The Kabul Beauty School was published by Sphere, which is an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group.
Deborah Rodriguez also wrote The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.