Great Read: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan written by: Jenny Nordberg

I’ve been reading a variety of books lately both fiction and non-fiction. I picked The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg because I’ve been wanting to learn more about cultures in the middle east as well as issues they may be facing. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this book, in fact, I think I was thinking it was going to be similar to Reading Lolita in Tehran – women helping other women in an underground type movement, but it was nothing like I expected.
It was incredible to see the lengths families would go to protect their reputation, and within that, how culture and society roll with the choices that are made, just acknowledging that these decisions have to be made for the sake of the family, whatever may happen.

There was a lot of discussion last year on what defines gender. Is it parts you are born with or how society defines boy vs. girl? I found it comical as my son was in his toddler/early elementary years because he was drawn to the most random things – favorite color? Pink for a good while. Favorite toys? We had a My Little Pony phase. I’d raise my eyebrows, but roll with it. We saw McD’s one too many times to get those My Little Ponies…and who can blame him, really? I LOVED them as a kid…It even gave me a chance to pull some of MY old toys out of the attic. Everything was a phase. I’ve always felt that if my kid was concerned about his sexuality in elementary school, then I had a problem. Kids are kids…or they should be to me.

But then I read this book…It didn’t change my feelings on how I’ve been handling favorite colors, tv shows, toys, etc. but it did make me wonder how gender as a whole works. I do believe that we are made with certain qualities that tend to “group” us into one category or another – women may be more nurturing…boys more destructible. (That being said, please note that I am fully aware that there are lots of destructible girls and nurturing boys)…but I’ve had my fill of stitches and broken bones that my friends with girls just have not had to deal with! I believe that God intended men to be one way and women to be another so that we could support and care for each other perfectly…and then there was sin which totally jacked up that situation.
In The Underground Girls of Kabul parents in some cases choose their children’s gender based on societal pressure. To have not had a boy by the third or fourth child, a family could be pitied or cursed. It tarnishes reputations, in some cases, leading to job loss.

So, they make their girl a boy.

Let that sink in.

At birth a female child will be born and the parents will say “It’s a boy!” Doctors will nod and go with it. Or at five, the parents will see that issues are piling up as they have not had a girl yet (or perhaps can’t get pregnant again)…so they will call in their daughter, and discuss transitioning them into a boy.
Then wrestle with the fact that one day the girl, who has been made into a boy by cutting their hair short, allowing them to wear pants and run around with other boys, will one day have to turn back into a girl (around puberty) so they can resume another societal norm.

This is an amazing read. Regardless of where you fall on ideas around gender, this book will definitely enlighten on multiple levels and reveal layers of questions with which to wrestle. What would I choose? What if I was the girl having to be a boy? So many questions, but not many answers…amazing that today these are issues that families have to deal with in Afghanistan. Granted it may not be everywhere or commonplace, but I would be intrigued to see the actual numbers if families could admit it without retribution.
If you choose to read this, let me know your thoughts – what did you wrestle with (or did you)? I’m appreciative of Jenny Nordberg for boldly asking questions that are difficult to answer – and seeking the stories from those willing to share them with us.

Santa’s Coming! Santa’s Coming!

SantaKellenThe boys are at my in-laws until Christmas Eve. I have to admit, I was bummed when I realized that the boys would be gone right up until Christmas Eve. Tim thought I was crazy;) Truly though, with Christmas being my favorite holiday, the idea that the boys would not be with me up until the very moment of Christmas had me a bit sad. The laughter and the craziness makes me feel right at home – considering that’s how I grew up – a big family brings lots of noise and fun so this quiet time before the big day is something new.

While the rain is slowly starting to fall on this side of Georgia, I’m reflecting on how I want 2016 to be…The post yesterday shared some of my expectations of what 2016 can hold…More focus on those in need and less focus on the materialistic items – both for myself and my family.

Today I went to the bookstore and found myself perusing the social issues section. I love reading about others who have inspired and met challenges around the world from inner-city high schools to 3rd world countries. I found the companion to 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson which I’m excited to begin reading as well as a few others that I’ll be mentioning in the coming weeks. I’m so grateful for the life God has given me and I want so much to be able to share my journey with others. It hasn’t been easy – the last few years since Tim left full time ministry has been difficult. We have both been learning to face the new reality and while I’m confident that God moved us from our former church, it does not make it any less painful. It’s been slow going, finding our footing. I found that I took just as much ownership in Tim’s former position as he did and while my identity was not his job – a portion of it was that job…that calling. So to find us both navigating the corporate world has been both fun and frustrating. I haven’t talked about that journey except with a few close friends. It’s similar to my journey at work and dreams of the future. Some are hard to vocalize because in stating what you want might make people question the path that you are on…I’m hoping in 2016 I’ll be able to share more of what we’ve learned, what I’ve learned. We haven’t navigated everything perfectly, but we’re not perfect people.

It sounds crazy, but a few years ago I am very confident God provided me with a vision of our future as I drove down I-285. It was the second time in 2 years I had felt God audibly speak to me. I debated whether the vision was exactly what the future would be or whether it was just a vision of what opportunity lay ahead. I’m still not sure, but I hold onto it and I believe that 2016 is the year I will begin to see it unfold.

I have to admit – I’m pretty excited!

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