A Different Kind of Daughter

  • by Maria Toorpakai, Katharine Holstein
  • Narrated by Neela Vaswani
  • 12 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Maria Toorpakai hails from Pakistan's violently oppressive northwest tribal region, where the idea of women playing sports is considered haram - un-Islamic, forbidden - and girls rarely leave their homes. But she did, passing as a boy in order to play the sports she loved, thus becoming a lightning rod of freedom in her country's fierce battle over women's rights.
A Different Kind of Daughter tells of Maria's harrowing journey to play the sport she knew was her destiny, first living as a boy and roaming the violent back alleys of the frontier city of Peshawar, rising to become the number-one female squash player in Pakistan. For Maria, squash was more than liberation - it was salvation. But it was also a death sentence, thrusting her into the national spotlight and the crosshairs of the Taliban, who wanted Maria and her family dead. Maria knew her only chance of survival was to flee the country.
Enter Jonathon Power, the first North American to earn the title of top squash player in the world and the only person to heed Maria's plea for help. Recognizing her determination and talent, Jonathon invited Maria to train and compete internationally in Canada. After years of living on the run from the Taliban, Maria packed up and left the only place she had ever known to move halfway across the globe and pursue her dream. Now Maria is well on the way to becoming a world champion as she continues to be a voice for oppressed women everywhere.


What the Critics Say

"An intimate look into the lives of women in one of the most hostile places on earth that the eyes of foreigners rarely see. Maria, through courage, defiance, and a supportive family, managed to beat the odds and survive the kind of prejudice and persecution that kills or destroys many other women in the region. A testimony to the resilience of the human spirit." (Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Teheran)
"A vivid personal account of a courageous young woman standing up to one of the world's most oppressive theocracies." (Kirkus Reviews)
"This astonishing and inspirational memoir chronicles more than Maria's life; it also relates the story of her parents, an incredible couple, who, despite the odds, fought for the betterment and education of themselves, their children, and the Pakistani people." (Library Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Genghis Khan is a Girl

This book is flat out breathtakingly good. It's enchanting and poetic; brutally cruel; and hold your breath and hope for safety-and-grace thrilling. It's also sappy smile-on-your face inspirational. It's worth every minute of the listen - and a replay.

I caught Terry Gross' interview with Maria Toorpakai on NPR's "Fresh Air" early one afternoon. I only caught a few minutes - the part about Maria burning her dresses as a small child; an aunt, trapped inside a small walled compound for years by conservative tribal customs who'd died of a broken heart; and Maria's masquerade as a boy on her way to becoming an internationally ranked athlete. In Pakistan. Where the Taliban is trying to make all women "haram" - forbidden. Forbidden to see and be seen, to move, to live.

Maria Toorpakai Wazir has the sheer out and out athleticism and drive of a world class competitor that transcends gender, religion and ethnicity. Squash, for her, is an unequaled passion that she would give her life for. Toorpakai (Wazir is her tribe) wouldn't ask others to give their lives for her to play, and her selflessness nearly cost her sanity.

A few chapters into Toorpakai's "A Different Kind of Daughter: The Girl Who Hid from the Taliban in Plain Sight" (2016) I longed to explore Wazirstan. "If I learn Pashto," I thought, "and disguise myself as a man as Maria did, I might be able to see the most beautiful place in the world." Well, that wouldn't work - I'm definitely light skinned with light eyes, but maybe a burqa? The tribal belt of Pakistan might not actually be Shangri-La, but Toorpakai and Malala Yousafzai both write so eloquently about that part of the world that it sounds like heaven on earth. See, "I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban" (2013).

A warning, though: There are some parts of this book that are extremely disturbing - sexual abuse of children happens, although Toorpakai was an observer, not a victim. Women are stoned to death, sometimes by their own fathers. I wouldn't stop my daughter from listening to or reading the book - my daughter's devotion to her sport rivals Toorpakai's devotion to squash, and I know she will relate - but I will talk to her ahead of time and let her know it's okay to skip those parts.

Toorpakai's family called her "Genghis Khan" when she lived as a boy. That's where the title is from.

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- Cynthia "Always moving. Always listening. Always learning. "After all this time?" "Always.""

Read this in Print

I loved this book, and wanted to be able to recommend it as an audiobook. The author is an inspiring woman with an engaging writing style...
But I can't handle the narrator! I can't put my finger on why, exactly, but I've been trying for over a week to get 1/4 through the book and I simply can't. She reads many passages flatly. her dialogue is emotive and wonderful... she'd probably be a good choice for a novel... but there's not enough dialogue in here to carry the narrator through.
Read this terrific book in print; listen to the audio sample before purchase.
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- Daryl

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-03-2016
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio