In My Father's Country: Book summary and reviews of In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab

In My Father's Country

An Afghan Woman Defies Her Fate

by Saima Wahab

In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2012
    352 pages
    Genre: Biographies/Memoirs

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Book Summary

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, at age three Saima Wahab watched while her father was arrested and taken from their home by the KGB.  She would never see him again. When she was fifteen an uncle who lived in Portland, Oregon brought her to America.  Having to learn an entire new language, she nonetheless graduated from high school in three years and went on to earn a bachelor's degree.  In 2004 she signed on with a defense contractor to work as an interpreter in Afghanistan, never realizing that she would blaze the trail for a new kind of diplomacy, earning the trust of both high-ranking U.S. army officials and Afghan warlords alike.
 
When she arrived in Afghanistan in the winter of 2004, Saima was the only college-educated female Pashto speaker in the entire country. She was stunned to learn how little U.S. and coalition forces knew about the Pashtun, who comprise 40% of the population and from whom the Taliban arose. The blessing of the Pashtun is essential, but the U.S. army was so unaware of the workings of this ancient, proud, insular ethic group, that they would routinely send Farsi interpreters into Pashtun villages.  As a Pashtun-born American citizen, Saima found herself in an extraordinary position - to be able to explain the people of her native land to those of her adopted one, and vice versa, in a quest to forge new and lasting bonds between two misunderstood cultures.
 
In My Father's Country follows Saima's remarkable journey from child refugee to nervous Pashto interpreter to intrepid "Human Terrain" specialist, venturing with her 25-man security detail into isolated Pashtun villages to engage hostile village elders in the first dialogue they've ever had with an American.  From her anxious American high school years to her posting at operating base Farah in Afghanistan's blistering western frontier to the year she spent at Jalalabad translating for provincial Governor and "Hollywood Pashtun" Sherzai, to the near-suicide missions of a year in the Khost Province, where she "cracked the code" of the Zadran, the most warrior-like of Pashtun tribes, Saima Wahab's is an incomparable story of one young woman's unwavering courage and undaunted spirit. 

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A carefully wrought work that allows a rare look inside Pashtun culture." - Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review. In vibrant but understated prose, Wahab vividly portrays a misunderstood culture, as well as the tense life on military bases where everyone must wear body armor and carry a weapon." - Publishers Weekly

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Kevin Bittenbender

Motivating
I highly recommend this book to any person seeking to be given a three-dimensional view of being a cultural advisor, the Pashtun culture as well as provided a vivid picture of the cultural insight. Having experienced first hand as a soldier, the book brought back a flood of memories as well as the impact we have on a developing country in a time of war. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. It was one of a few books that once you begin reading, it's hard to put down. Excellent read. Five stars and two thumbs up!

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Saima Wahab was born in Afghanistan, went to Pakistan as a refugee, and moved to the United States as a teenager. Since then she has become one of the only Pashtun female translators in the world, and - among other consequent roles - has returned to Afghanistan several times to work as a cultural adviser with the U.S. Army. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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