14 August 2008 ~ 0 Comments

(Audiobook) Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez


This may be more the narrator than the text, but I found parts of this to be haughty and “better than you” – if that makes any sense? HOWEVER — this story is amazing. I knew much of this, but I also learned some new things. Some that have, once again, changed my thoughts and views on that part of the world. Ms. Rodriguez is to be commended for all she has done – and apparently continues to do – for these women. She may be “only a hairdresser” but she obviously gave some of the women the tools to get away from not only brutal marriages, but a way to increase their own self-worth and self-esteem. A very good memoir – a few places are a bit uncomfortable to read, it’s not that it’s brutal – more than it’s brutally honest. I squirmed a bit in a few places. Well worth a read or listen.


Soon after the fall of the Taliban, in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid to this war-torn nation. Surrounded by men and women whose skills–as doctors, nurses, and therapists–seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was born.

With the help of corporate and international sponsors, the Kabul Beauty School welcomed its first class in 2003. Well meaning but sometimes brazen, Rodriguez stumbled through language barriers, overstepped cultural customs, and constantly juggled the challenges of a postwar nation even as she learned how to empower her students to become their families’ breadwinners by learning the fundamentals of coloring techniques, haircutting, and makeup.

Yet within the small haven of the beauty school, the line between teacher and student quickly blurred as these vibrant women shared with Rodriguez their stories and their hearts: the newlywed who faked her virginity on her wedding night, the twelve-year-old bride sold into marriage to pay her family’s debts, the Taliban member’s wife who pursued her training despite her husband’s constant beatings. Through these and other stories, Rodriguez found the strength to leave her own unhealthy marriage and allow herself to love again, Afghan style.

With warmth and humor, Rodriguez details the lushness of a seemingly desolate region and reveals the magnificence behind the burqa. Kabul Beauty School is a remarkable tale of an extraordinary community of women who come together and learn the arts of perms, friendship, and freedom.

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