Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skillsas doctors, nurses, and therapistsseemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was born.
With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers, overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup.
Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride sold into marriage to pay her familys debts, the Taliban members wife who pursued her training despite her husbands constant beatings. Through these and other stories, Rodriguez found the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style.
With warmth and humor, Rodriguez details the lushness of a seemingly desolate region and reveals the magnificence behind the burqa. Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the arts of perms, friendship, and freedom.
The New York Times - William Grimes Kabul Beauty School is the rollicking story of one of the strangest foreign-aid projects ever conceived, the creation of an academy to train Afghan beauticians.
Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese
There are gaps in her account that you could ride a camel through — why did this two-time divorcée wed an Afghan with a wife and seven children after knowing him all of 20 days? But as she blithely puts it, ''I hardly ever deliberate before taking action. I just do, occasionally with disastrous results.'' Sometimes, as with this book, the results are delightful. B+
The Washington Post - Pamela Constable
Rodriguez also takes a personal plunge into the minefield of Afghan romance by marrying a man she meets there. The subplot of that tempestuous bicultural relationship is revealing, but it also has a self-indulgently confessional quality. In contrast, her story of the beauty school and the Afghan women who found refuge there is an important testimonial to the stubborn misogyny of a country many earnest Westerners are trying so hard to change.
Terrifically readable, and rich in personal stories.
This witty and insightful (if light) memoir will be perfect for women's reading groups and daytime talk shows.
Brash and clearly uninterested in political niceties, Rodriguez understands the needs and fears of the Afghan women who befriend her because she, too, has left a brutal husband back in the United States.
School Library Journal
Rodriguez's experiences will delight readers as she recounts such tales as two friends acting as "parents" and negotiating a dowry for her marriage to an Afghan man or her students puzzling over a donation of a carton of thongs. Most of all, they will share her admiration for Afghan women's survival and triumph in chaotic times
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Louise Jolly Kabul Beauty School Deborah Rodriguez was a hairdresser from Michigan with a degree in cosmetology who decided to move to Afghanistan and teach the women of Kabul how to be beauticians. As she was working out the details of how her hairdressing school would be run,... Read More
Rated of 5
by Tanya Santy Inspiration Deborah Rodriguez's book "Kabul Beauty School" was about a her life story as an adult with an abusive husband, and leaving her life behind to help out underprivileged women in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan she saw women that were beaten and abused... Read More
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