Reader Review: "The Underground Girls of Kabul"

by Gloria: What kind of society values sons so highly that desperate women dress their daughters in pants and raise them as boys? And what happens to those daughters when they reach puberty and suddenly have to live as women in a society that demands that they be clothed from head to foot and never appear in public unless accompanied by a male family member?


Jenny Nordberg explores these questions in her thought-provoking book, “The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan.”


Nordberg introduces us to these “bacha posh,” women who live or have lived as men, and we discover that this practice is not specific to Afghanistan or Islam or even to the 21st century. The reasons for bacha posh are cultural, religious and financial, an offshoot of a patrilineal society in which a woman's sole purpose is to bear a son.


I could hardly put Nordberg's book down. It is, above all, enlightening. And at other times depressing and infuriating. “The Underground Girls of Kabul” shows how women are oppressed in one of the most war-torn countries in the world, but it also reveals how many women in Afghanistan are trying to push back against the oppression and find freedom for themselves and their daughters.