Reading guide for The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Underground Girls of Kabul

In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

by Jenny Nordberg

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg X
The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 288 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  1. The Underground Girls of Kabul features several women who find ways to resist and subvert power—including Azita, whose status is elevated by disguising her daughter as a son; Mehran, who is able to confidently roughhouse with boys her own age; and Zahra, who fights her parents to maintain her male identity after puberty. Which woman's story did you find most interesting? Why?

  2. Although Afghanistan and its conflicts have been well-covered, the book offers a different entry point into the lives of people there. Before reading this book what (if anything) did you know about Afghanistan? What did you find surprising about the country and its history in reading this book?

  3. Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change the strict gender culture of Afghanistan? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation?

  4. Some of the girls who are raised as bacha posh do not want to go back to living as women. How do you think you would react if you were in their position?

  5. After reading the book, does the practice of bacha posh make sense to you or is it entirely foreign? How would you explain why this happens?

  6. The author outlines a pervasive culture of violence and extreme segregation. Which part of the story, if any, made you angry? Why?

  7. What historical and current-day parallels to bacha posh, pretending to be someone or something else due to segregation or oppression can you think of: real or fictional, in different countries, for different reasons?

  8. Are the lives of Afghan women entirely different from those of women in the West, or do you see similarities in how we behave and how we live? What are those?

  9. Do you agree that there is also a "culture of honor" in our society, where girls should be pure and boys should be aggressive and protective? Where do you see examples of that in the reporting of daily news or in your own life?

  10. Many of the women in this book experience the limits of female freedom, even if they have had success. For example, Azita has risen from a small Afghan village to occupy a place in parliament, but she is still very limited in what she can do and how far she can reach. Is there a limit to how far most women can get in our own society today? Why is that?

  11. In an interview about the book, Jenny Nordberg said that the story of the bacha posh "cuts right to the most difficult questions of human existence: war, oppression, and the difference between men and women." Do you agree? Why are the differences between men and women so important to us?

  12. Jenny Nordberg raises questions about whether or not gender is dichotomous, and she even calls bacha posh "a third kind of child"—neither boy nor girl. What do you think: Are we born a certain way or do we become our gender?

  13. Under what circumstances would you consider raising a daughter as a son? And in what situation or circumstance could you imagine disguising yourself in exchange for greater freedom?

  14. Did you ever wonder how things would have been different had you been born a child of the other gender? Did you ever wish, at any stage in your life or in a particular circumstance, that you could be a different gender?

  15. For the female reader: Did you ever dress in a less feminine and more traditionally male or conservative way to be taken seriously? Why is that important?

  16. For the male reader: What traits that are considered traditionally female have you ever wished you could display more openly, if any? Do you feel a pressure to appear manly in the sense of protecting one's family; to appear capable; et cetera?

  17. In what way were you treated like a boy or a girl, respectively, when you were little? Were there things you absolutely couldn't do due to your gender? Do you see a future in which gender roles will be less strict, and how is that a good or a bad thing for men and women?

  18. Do you agree with the author's conclusion that women's rights are essential to human rights and to building peaceful civilizations? Why or why not?

  19. What would you tell the author or any of these women? They would love to hear from you. We invite you to continue the conversation on bachaposh.com or to connect with Jenny Nordberg on Twitter: @nordbergj

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Crown. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  Muslim Women's Dress Styles

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...
  • Book Jacket: Mothers of Sparta
    Mothers of Sparta
    by Dawn Davies
    What it's about:
    The tagline on the back cover of Mothers of Sparta says it all: "Some women...
  • Book Jacket: Fortress America
    Fortress America
    by Elaine Tyler May
    In Fortress America, Elaine Tyler May presents a fascinating but alarming portrait of America's...
  • Book Jacket: The Friend
    The Friend
    by Sigrid Nunez
    Sigrid Nunez is one of the most underrated authors writing today. Her work is so lovely, so ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Next Year in Havana
    by Chanel Cleeton

    a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she finds a family secret hidden since the revolution.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    As Bright as Heaven
    by Susan Meissner

    A story of a family reborn through loss and love in Philadelphia during the flu epidemic of 1918.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

A gripping novel from the award-winning author of For Today I Am a Boy.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

G O T P, B The P, F T P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.