Kabul Beauty School

  • by Deborah Rodriguez, Kristin Ohlson
  • Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
  • 8 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Most Westerners working in Afghanistan spend their time tucked inside a military compound or embassy. Not Deborah Rodriguez. Here, she tells the story of the beauty school she founded in the middle of Kabul and of the vibrant women who were her students.When Rodriguez opened the Kabul Beauty School, she not only empowered her students with a new sense of autonomy but also made some of the closest friends of her life. Woven through the book are the stories of her students: the newlywed who must fake her virginity; the 12-year-old sold into marriage to pay her family's debts; and a woman who pursues her training despite her Taliban husband's constant beatings. They all bring their stories to the beauty school, where, along with Rodriguez herself, they learn the art of perms, friendship, and freedom.

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What the Critics Say

"A terrific opening chapter - colorful, suspenseful, funny - ushers readers into the curious closed world of Afghan women." (Publishers Weekly)
"A lively narrative of the author's experiences reacquainting Afghan women with skills the mullahs had denied them....Terrifically readable, and rich in personal stories." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Thumbs down

I could have loved this story. I am fascinated by Afghani culture and share the author's compassion for the women there, but I felt like she spent too much time boo-hooing over her own circumstances. She would be feeling homesick or frustrated and the Afghani women (who have bigger problems than hers, such as physical/emotional abuse in their marriages) would either ignore her silliness, or comfort her.

The truth is, Debbie never went "behind the veil" as the title suggests. Sure, she wore traditional Afghani garb, but throughout the book, she insists on retaining her brash American ways, without taking much away from Afghani culture.

Most of the time I listened to this audiobook, I felt there was some major piece of it that was just missing; some common thread to tie together all the little "episodes" (that's how she structures it: one or two Afghani women, describe their problem, weep over it, and move on). Maybe I missed the point, but this wasn't what I was expecting.
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- Becky

Kabul's Gossip Central

While I enjoyed listening to this book, I felt like I couldn't entirely trust the writer. I wasn't sure what her motives were for going to Kabul or for marrying an Afghani man (or for leaving half-grown children back in the states, for that matter).

The writer's self-centred approach got in the way of the characters because each character was seen through a naive American lens that limited and flattened the residents of Kabul to stereotypical roles of warlords or former mujahadeen, victims of the Taliban ot helpless pawns in familial manoevering. Each episode she describes casts herself as the central American rescuer - facing up to kidnapping nasty neighbours, winning over unresponsive in-laws, saving the honour of not-so-virginal brides.

Overall, it isn't a substantial book - rather like the light-hearted (or occasionally mean-spirited) gossip of beauty salons everywhere.
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- LaFemmeRouge

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-09-2007
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.