Torn Between Two Cultures: An Afghan-American Woman Speaks Out / Edition 1

Torn Between Two Cultures: An Afghan-American Woman Speaks Out / Edition 1

4.5 12
by Maryam Qudrat Aseel

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ISBN-10: 1931868700

ISBN-13: 2901931868708

Pub. Date: 10/18/2004

Publisher: Capital Books, Incorporated

Maryam Qudrat Aseel is an Afghan-American woman born in the U.S. to first generation Afghan immigrants. In Torn Between Two Cultures she weaves her family’s and her own personal stories into recent American and Afghan politics and history. Her book describes her upbringing in America as a woman in a modern Afghan family with traditional values. She explores


Maryam Qudrat Aseel is an Afghan-American woman born in the U.S. to first generation Afghan immigrants. In Torn Between Two Cultures she weaves her family’s and her own personal stories into recent American and Afghan politics and history. Her book describes her upbringing in America as a woman in a modern Afghan family with traditional values. She explores how those values and her own desire to be "American" came into conflict and led to an identity crisis that was only resolved as she rediscovered her religious and cultural roots, became increasingly active in the Afghan and Muslim communities, and resolved to bridge the gap between her two cultures. As an Afghan-American woman, Maryam offers a unique perspective on East and West conflicts, and in this book and in her life she is working to bring about understanding and resolution. Torn Between Two Cultures is a paradigm for the larger problem of the growing gap of understanding between the Islamic world and the West.


"Through her book, Maryam Qudrat Aseel hopes to open a dialogue and provide some glimpses into an often misunderstood and enigmatic culture and religion. What her book offers is one woman’s perspective on those events [Afghanistan’s history], how they shaped Afghans both in Afghanistan and in exile, and how hearing their plight might shed some understanding on that obscure land and its people. Maryam’s book also offers an as yet undisclosed glimpse into the lives, struggles, and social norms of the Afghan diaspora. But Maryam is a woman, of course, and in many ways this is a book about the peculiar challenges of being an Afghan Muslim woman living in a western society. Immersed in a culture with vastly different sensibilities than her own culture, she must nevertheless find ways to straddle the two sides of her identity. For anyone with even a casual interest in Afghans, east vs. west issues, and Islam, Maryam Qudrat Aseel, hyphenated woman, offers some valuable lessons."
Khaled Hosseini, author of Kite Runner

Product Details

Capital Books, Incorporated
Publication date:
Capital Currents
Edition description:
New Edition

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 - A Dark Summer in Afghanistan
Chapter 2 - Afghans in America
Chapter 3 - Coming Together, Falling Apart
Chapter 4 - Growing Up Muslim Afghan-American
Chapter 5 - Revisiting Afghanistan
Chapter 6 - Womanhood
Chapter 7 - The Real Islam
Chapter 8 - Between Old Friends
Chapter 9 - As the Smoke Clears

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Torn Between Two Cultures: An Afghan-American Woman Speaks Out 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book, “Torn Between Two Cultures,” helped me to open my eyes to see the real Islam culture and made me realize that I was wrong about them.  In this book, Maryam Qudrat Aseel tells her stories and experiences as an Afghan-American born in America in LA.  The author’s parents were smart and educated college students in Afghanistan.  Her mom was given a chance to study abroad in America and so decided to move to America.  She invited her families from Afghanistan and got married with her lover, the author’s dad, and the author was born in the happy and peaceful family.  The author describes the trip to Afghanistan with her mom as the ‘dark summer’ because of bomb attack in Kabul.  As she grew up in America with Afghan identity, she realized how she was different from others and also learned the truth of Islam.  She also tells us her life was affected after September 11 and tries to let people know the real face of Afghanistan and Islam which was covered with a wrong mask due to Taliban.  My prejudice on Islam people, especially women was like this: they have to obey and listen to men in their family, they do not have rights to speak out, and they are forced to give up their dreams for their family.  However, this book tells that this is not true.  The author explains how Islam women are treated with respect, and they do get higher education to achieve their goals. I would not be able to see the truth of Islam and the country, Afghanistan without this book.  I very appreciate that my professor introduced me this great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In “Torn Between Two Cultures” book the author Aseel discussed her personal stories explaining about American and Afghan Politics and history.  She belongs to Muslim religion and she explains thoroughly how her life changed after the 9/11. Any Muslim can relate to this book because most of us do feel the gap of understanding that Americans have about Muslims. I really liked her book because she had some visual pictures of her and her family. She was the first generation of Afghan- American so, she talks about the topic from both perspectives. That way it’s easily readable and the reader feels like they know everyone that the author’s talking about in the book. This is one of the books that I will definitely read again.
Yuyaysapa More than 1 year ago
Torn between two cultures by Maryam Qudrat tell the story of her cultural background in Afghanistan including the aspirations, dynamic life, ideologies, and professional development of her and her family. Qudrat also described not only a history of violence, assassination, coup, international and civil wars in Afghanistan, but also a growing uncertainty among Afghans and American-Afghan living in the United States since September 11, 2000. As Qudrat pointed out “I am an Afghan-America woman, born in Los Angeles in 1974 to Afghan who immigrated before all hell broke loose in their homeland”.  The whole idea to immigrate to America, as every other ethnic group could experience, is to look forward for a better future in one of the most powerful country in the word. However, after Quadrats’ parents immigrated to pursued a professional career and a better future, the civil war in Afghanistan stroke. Qudrat describes the insecurity and the civil war accounts in detail when she was visiting her extended family member in Afghanistan at her only 4 years old. Coincidently, Qudrat’s parent, along with her, went to Afghanistan, days before the civil was stroke. “In 1978, Afghan communist backed by the Soviet Union assassinated Daoud. Noor Taraki become president. Five months later, Taraki is assassinated and Hafizllah Amin assumes power”. Qudrat recalled those days by saying, “The nights were even scarier, as the sounds of attacks and the showering of bombs shook the entire house”. Those days, intended for a trip of leisure, turned out to be days of frustrations. Another important aspect to be recognized in her story is Qudrat’s cultural traditions. As an Afghan-America woman, she was raised with less restricted Muslim customs. Qudrat could decide how to manage her life, whom to marry to, etc. However her father expected Qudrat to wear loose clothing that disguises her female body shape. “He expected me to in a very conservative fashion, wearing dark, formal colors, and clothing that was very boyish with no-style what so ever”. Her first successfully experience reading the Quran at her short age was the reflection of an intensive effort of Qudrat’s grandmother. Another interesting fact about Qudrat experience is the conversation taken place with in her university with Hashimi, an invited Afghan speaker guest. Hashimi explained Qudrat about Taliban ideologies To summarize Qudrat rich history was introduced at childhood modeled her integrity. Afghan Islamic traditions, Quran’s studies, wedding traditional practices, and ceremonies, have enriched Qudrat intellectually and morally. On the other hand, the constant stereotyping of the Islamic cultural tradition has given her a difficult life, not only in Afghanistan, but also in America. Not only Qudrat’s parent has suffered the impact of violence in their country of origin, but also the violence and fear has trespassed frontiers arriving to America. Islamic culture is mostly considered as a whole as an extreme Islamic group dominated terror because of their extreme terrorist acts. I personally did not know about some of the Taliban ideologies before September 11. I obviously has met many friends of Islamic origins, and enjoyed greatly their magical culture. Islamic women dresses seems like taken from a magical fairy tale history of princesses, and princes in magical kingdom.
Peter2013 More than 1 year ago
This book is a very informative book and I enjoyed reading it. This book has the potential to be used as a reference book in college and university level. Now, I have a much better understanding about different challenges and issues faced by people who grow in two different cultures. 5 Stars..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Torn between two cultures  “Torn between two cultures” describes the author’s experiences and stories about the struggle of Afghan people who immigrated to America post-Soviet war. In the book, she describes how she was raised in American society as a woman from an Afghan family with traditional values and religious beliefs. One of the main points she stated in her book was the truth of Islam.  She played an important role in the book defending Islam and convincing the readers that it is the religion of peace.  Also, she describes how confident she was in practicing the Mid-eastern culture in a Western Country. After reading her book, one can realize how women are treated in Islam with more respect, and the role they play in society. Women play a vital and prominent role in Islam even if that does not hold true for Middle Eastern cultural communities. When she visited her homeland she described how people in Afghanistan live in peace.  This book really helped me because it describes what the reality of Islam is and gives people in the America and the world in general a much clearer view about Islam, Middle Eastern culture and regional politics.  Also, the author talks about the birth of the Taliban, their roots and political goals. The book inspired me insofar as how she related here life experiences and the views on Islam. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best books I have ever read. It talks about an Afghan-American experience. The author tells her story as an American-born daughter of Afghan parents who immigrated to the USA during the Afghanistan war (Soviet occupation). It is amazing how she describes the misunderstanding about Islam and replaces it with truth about Islam. She discussed different views about Islam (presented by Holy Quran) as it is practiced by Muslims and as those who are unfamiliar with it. Decrypting Islam in depth was a good idea since many people in this country do not know what Islam is in reality. It is interesting how she relates her life experience as she grew up in the USA, going to Afghanistan. Also, it is astonishing to me how strongly she holds to her tradition within the USA culture. It is not easy to practice the tradition of your parent’s culture if you are born in a culture different than theirs. English is not my first language, but it was really easy to read this book and it is well organized when you read it. She emphasized many times that the Taliban was and is not going to be the representation of Afghans and Muslims. Most terrorist attacks were done under the name of Islam, and that is very sad. This book is really amazing and should be taught to educate people about Islam. I felt very touched by the author’s experiences.
2177 More than 1 year ago
I had the opportunity to meet the author and it is very confusing. She is such an arrogant, rude individual. I was insulted and treated with such disrespect. I was disgusted and offended by her actions towards me and others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being an Afghan-American girl myself I could relate to everything she wrote and I really enjoyed reading this book. This book was very informative and it made me embrace my culture, my identity and who I am. I love the way Maryam portrayed the Afghan community and I highly recommend this book to everyone. It was wriiten beautifully and it held my attention to the end. After I finished reading it I passed it down to my younger sisters to also read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm biased, because I know Maryam personally, but I am a huge fan of both her and her work. This is a remarkable book because it's the first of its kind that relates to an American/Western audience the implications and experiences of having a hyphenated identity, especially that of an Afghan, Muslim Woman. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in 'debunking' the aura of mythology that surrounds both Muslim and Afghan women.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty good book. It was educational for anyone who wants to know anything about Afghan people. If Maryam Qudrat is a typical Afghan or Muslim, we don't really have the global problem as painted by the politicians, etc. In any case, it was entertaining aside from helping you understand the way Muslims see things.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Torn Between Two Cultures is a fascinating book that explores the author's personal experiences with the East vs. West conflict. It is both entertaining and intellectually engaging. I laughed, cried, and everything in between throughout this profound read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was fortunate enough to meet Maryam at an event and get a peek of her book. It was academically and philosophically superior. I urge anyone from any culture to get a copy. It explores issues as little as a woman's dress in Afghanistan to a scholarly analysis of the current east-west ideological war and the post 9-11 world. A must read.