Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Overview

"A profoundly moving experience . . . a page-turner."
- Los Angeles Times

" 'Dare to show up . . . Dare to be present in your own time' . . . Meena is the story of a woman who did these things at great cost, in the process giving a face and voice to women who had none."
- Washington Post Book World

"After Meena's murder, the women inspired by her, despite great danger, continue the work. An important book."
- Grace Paley

"A vivid celebration of...

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Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

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Overview

"A profoundly moving experience . . . a page-turner."
- Los Angeles Times

" 'Dare to show up . . . Dare to be present in your own time' . . . Meena is the story of a woman who did these things at great cost, in the process giving a face and voice to women who had none."
- Washington Post Book World

"After Meena's murder, the women inspired by her, despite great danger, continue the work. An important book."
- Grace Paley

"A vivid celebration of a contemporary heroine."
- Kirkus Reviews

"Chavis writes in a simple direct way, in keeping with RAWA's mission to educate women and girls."
- The Women's Review of Books

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Early on in her tribute to Meena, an Afghan woman who founded and led the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan before being assassinated in 1987 at age 30, Chavis tells the legend of another martyred Afghan, Malalai, who was supposedly shot while inspiring her compatriots to defeat the British in 1880. It is a glorified portrait, revealing little more than Malalai's nationalistic bravery. Unfortunately, Chavis' glowing, saccharine telling of Meena's life provides about the same level of insight, reducing this leading Afghan feminist to a storybook heroine. Chavis describes Meena as a selfless, tireless saint who, despite personal tragedy and physical illnesses, never complained and worked each day to help others until she passed out from exhaustion -a cliched rendering that, while perhaps true, makes for a one-dimensional biography. Just as Chavis' characterizations lack the quirks and complexities needed to bring people to life, her inadequate historical and political background, peppered with such phrases as "flickering flame of freedom," wants for sophistication and nuance. According to the author's note, she spent months in Afghanistan, interviewing Meena's friends and acquaintances. Instead of drawing on the voices of her subjects, however, Chavis largely reconstructs the story from Meena's imagined point of view, a strategy that leads to simplistic, emotive writing. The level of analysis and prose style of this biography will disappoint most adult readers, but may be more appropriate reading for young adults. 10 halftones throughout. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Timely biography conscientiously detailing the brief but courageous life of the young woman who founded the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Chavis (Altars in the Street, 1997) read up on Afghanistan's turbulent history, talked to people who knew Meena, and visited Afghanistan after the Taliban fell in order to fashion this account. Born in Kabul in 1957, Meena contracted typhoid at 12 and nearly died; for the rest of her life she was subject to seizures and weakness in her limbs. Her illness made the already sensitive girl more serious, particularly aware of the plight of women. Though Meena's mother was illiterate, she and her architect husband insisted that their daughter be educated. At an elite school founded by the French, Meena was a good student who enjoyed her classes and outstanding teachers, one of whom would later join her cause. Chavis deftly details the politically volatile background-the coup that ended the monarchy, the authoritarian republic, the brutal Russian occupation, and their equally harsh Taliban successors-as she chronicles Meena's decision while at college in 1977 to found RAWA. Determined to help Afghan women, most of whom were illiterate and without any legal rights, Meena and her supporters wanted RAWA to work for both democracy and social justice, objectives that became increasingly difficult and dangerous to achieve as the political situation worsened. Meena married a doctor, who was also politically active, and bore a daughter and later twins, but they were often forced by the political situation to live apart; in 1986 he was tortured and killed by fundamentalists. Meena eventually fled to Pakistan, where she continued RAWA'swork in the refugee camps, making the organization internationally famous. Threatened by her popularity, her opponents had her abducted and killed in 1987. A vivid celebration of a contemporary heroine. Agent: Ann Rittenberg
From the Publisher

"Meena: a life, a country, Afghanistan, a woman's life, women's lives, bravery, and determination to educate girls and young in the face of the cruelest oppression. After Meena's murder, the women inspired by her, despite great danger, continue the work. An important book."
Grace Paley

"Melody Ermachild Chavis has written a deceptively simple, clear, and absolutely stunning portrait of a selfless revolutionary and of the organization of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, which she founded. Meena, inspires, humbles, and haunts us. Ultimately, Meena compels us to act—for peace and justice, for democracy, and, above all, for the liberation of women. Please read this book. It is a gift from the women of Afghanistan to the women of the world."
Bettina Aptheker, professor and chair of the women's studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz

"This is an interesting and useful account of the struggle waged by a young Afghan woman against religious fundamentalism in Afghanistan. The United States government encouraged and supported the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden in the struggle to 'contain' Soviet expansion for a number of years. Meena was a victim of religious fundamentalism, but also of big power interests."
Nawal El Saadawi, author of A Daughter of Isis and Walking Through Fire

"Timely biography conscientiously detailing the brief but courageous life of the young woman who founded the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). . . A vivid celebration of a contemporary heroine."
Kirkus Reviews

"A vivid celebration of a contemporary heroine." —Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312306908
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Melody Ermachild Chavis is the author of a memoir, Altars in the Street. Accompanied by Latifa Popal, Melody traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to interview women who knew Meena. Melody works as a private investigator defending people facing capital punishment. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is also a peace and social justice activist. All of the author's proceeds from this book will be donated to programs sponsored by RAWA.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
1 A Girl Between the old World and the New 1
2 A Teenager in Kabul 12
3 Study the Koran Well 22
4 The New World Begins 33
5 A Partnership 43
6 The Founding 55
7 Growing Danger 67
8 Torn Apart 74
9 Underground 85
10 Europe 101
11 Exile 114
12 Women's Work 124
13 Irretrievable Loss 139
14 With all Their Strength 147
15 Rawa Rising 158
Epilogue 176
Author's Note: Searching for Meena 183
Chronology 195
Further Reading 199
Index 201
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Reading Group Guide

The unforgettable story of how one woman dared to start a revolution. Meena founded RAWA in 1977 as a twenty-year-old Kabul University student. She was assassinated in 1987 at age thirty but lives on in the hearts of all progressive Muslim women. Her voice, speaking for freedom, has never been silenced. The compelling story of Meena's struggle for democracy and women's rights in Afghanistan will inspire young women the world over.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2008

    Incredible story

    As one who knew only what was regularly pushed in the media for the last two years, I failed to ever consider any personalities that might exist in such a villianized area. Not only was this an outstanding read the story of Meena was one of significant inspiration. She truly epitomizes the characteristics of a heroine. I hope this books becomes popular again... it's too bad it's already out of print. I just can't gush enough about how positively it impacted me and how incredibly moved I was.

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