Ansary, Tamim. West of Kabul, East of New York: An Afghan American Story. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
Reason read: I can’t remember why I chose this book.
Ansary writes with a duality that matches his bicultural heritage. His words are at once graceful and blunt; elegant and funny. He calls his upbringing “straddling a crack in the earth”, but what he doesn’t tell you is that his ability to navigate both the American and Afghan cultures is nothing short of expert mountaineering. His siblings may have chosen a definitive side after September 11th, but Ansary decided to use his bicultural perspective in an effort to find a deeper truth. It all started with an emotional email fired off to friends and family after the fall of the World Trade Towers. The email is included at the end of West of Kabul, in case you were wondering.
The entire time Ansary was traveling around Tangier I was on edge. His experiences with the “guides” were troubling; as was the time he was duped about an upgrade to a sleeping car on a train. (By the way, I would like to see jovial and overly congenial Rick Steves navigate those kinds of harassments.) Even when Ansary traveled to city to city waiting anxiously for a letter from his girlfriend, I was on edge. Would she wait for him? You just have to read his memoir to find out.
Lines I liked, “But I never liked him much personally and neither did someone else, because Uthman was assassinated” (p 48), “Power is a social construct, right down to the kick-ass level” (p 157), “Traveling can erase everything except the present, and turn the present into a hallucination” (p 184).
As an aside, the killing of the sheep was really hard to read. I am such a wuss.
Author fact: Ansary is also an author of books for children. West of Kabul is the only book I am reading for the Challenge.
Book trivia: There are no photographs in Ansary’s memoir.
Playlist: Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, Mozart, Ahmad Zahir, “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “Tell Laura I Love Her”,
Nancy said: Pearl said the first chapters of West of Kabul are fascinating. I am not sure what she thinks of the rest of the book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Islamic World” (p 127).