This timely memoir looks into the life of a man who has experienced war in Afghanistan from a side not normally reported on by the American media. Farivar explores his experience in the war with Russia that raged from 1979 to 1989, showing how his life circumstances influenced his attitude about war and religion and what jihad really means to someone who is Muslim. Not just a chronicle of war, it is also a coming-of-age story about a child raised by a secular father who as a young man becomes a refugee in Pakistan drawn to radical Islam, joining the mujahideen fighting in his homeland. A chance meeting with an English convert sets him on the path to America, a turn from radicalism, and a degree from Harvard. After years in America, Farivar has decided to return to Afghanistan and a very uncertain future. This invaluable memoir shows the other, non-American side of the Middle Eastern coin, explaining how a normal person can get caught up in radical Islam-not because he is anti-American or anti-West but because he is pro-Afghanistan. Farivar humanizes the experience for us. Recommended for larger public and especially academic libraries, where its discussion of hot-button issues will generate good discussion.
Memoir about growing up in war-torn Afghanistan by an Afghan refugee who joined the jihad against the Soviets and later studied at Harvard. The only son of a well-educated mechanical engineer who worked for an oil and gas company near Sheberghan, Farivar was nine when the Soviets invaded in 1979. Since his father was fiercely anti-Soviet, the family fled the country and settled in Peshawar, Pakistan, where Farivar attended a madrassa and received full indoctrination in Koranic and Arabic teaching. Fired up to join the jihad, he returned to Afghanistan and joined the mujahideen base at Tora Bora in the late '80s. As the war was winding down, Farivar met a curious Mexican-Greek journalist, Karimullah, who was impressed by the author's scholarly bent and encouraged him to apply to Harvard. He studied for a year at Lawrenceville Prep before landing at Harvard, and he humorously describes the culture shock he encountered in his first visit to America. Despite his campus legend as the "Afghan freedom fighter," Farivar maintained a low profile. He shaved his beard, moved to New York and tried to find work and a green card, just as the Taliban began their ascendancy. The end of the book is a bit vague, as the author notes he worked as a "roving war correspondent" and his immigration status was imperiled after 9/11. Following several trips back to Afghanistan, he recognized that his heart was there and that "only when Afghan refugees in Pakistan return to Afghanistan can there be stability in Afghanistan." Finally, Farivar returned in 2007 for an extended stay to assist Afghan journalists in Kabul, and he leaves his memoir as open-ended as the fragile state of his country. Eye-opening chronicle ofcultural exchange. Agent: Tina Bennett/Janklow & Nesbit