Excerpt from The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Taliban Shuffle

Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan

By Kim Barker

The Taliban Shuffle
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2011,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2012,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kevin Bartolotta

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"God, I could use a drink," I muttered, staring at the petrified mess. As far as I knew, Afghanistan was a dry country. I hadn't even tried to find alcohol.

We ate some kebabs. I worked on a story. And then, late at night, I heard a knock at my door. I hesitated to open it, even if it was Farouq. Like every female journalist here, I had suffered problems with overly friendly fixers, mainly in Pakistan, where one translator had pouted for three days because I refused to share a hotel room and a drink or four with him. I opened the door a few inches. It was Farouq, and he was bearing a gift—a bottle of vodka from Uzbekistan.

"I thought you might want this," he said, handing it through the door. "Have a good night."

Then he left, to go tell jokes to Afghan friends in a nearby room or to watch a Mr. Bean movie, both common ways for young men to pass the time here. The vodka was practically undrinkable, but at this point, it was clear—Farouq could do anything, and he was just the right kind of friendly.

The next day, he even found me an Internet café, the first to open in Kandahar. This was a revelation—the Taliban had banned the Internet and any depictions of people, whether in photographs or movies. For the uncensored Internet to be available, especially in Kandahar, represented a real change, definite progress. The café was in a house that looked like a cross between a bordello and a bomb shelter, with thick velvety curtains protecting the privacy of every so-called "cabana" and taped Xs on the windows protecting the customers from any explosions outside. I wondered what the young men of Kandahar spent their time looking at, so Farouq and I hopped from computer to computer, each cobbled together from old spare parts and, yes, duct tape, checking the lists of favorite websites and the recent surfing history.

"Most of them are about sex," Farouq whispered.

"Most of them are about sex with animals or boys," I corrected, clicking on ultradonkey.com before reaching for my hand sanitizer.

Apparently, freedom had arrived in the south. For now.

Excerpted from The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker. Copyright © 2011 by Kim Barker. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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