5M4B disclosure


“In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.”

Sure, I know it’s a little like cheating to start a review with the publisher’s blurb, but this one gets right to the point, allowing me to go straight to sharing my reactions from reading this affecting nonfiction book, The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. In short, I’m telling everyone I know to read this book. Immediately.

Nordberg’s reporting presents the stories of several individuals with experience with the concept of bacha posh, personally and as mothers, and the manner in which they share their stories is incredibly intimate and brave. These women were born into a society that awards practically zero value to females, beyond their capabilities of bearing children in the future, which will hopefully be predominantly male. The practice of raising a female child as a male, usually only through the time just before the onset of puberty, is quietly accepted in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of way in many areas of Afghanistan, and the benefits to the family unit are numerous. But what about the effect on the individual? In a culture that doesn’t place much worth on the concept of the individual, this is a very Western-focused question, and much of the Nordberg’s investigation tries to unveil answers to this question.

If I could assign an infinite amount of stars to this book, I would. It was fascinating, heart-wrenching, and wholly captivating. From my Western perspective, I can feel frustrated by the inequalities present in our American culture between females and males, but I seriously have no idea what it is like to be completely oppressed. The differences growing up female and male in Afghanistan are so vast that there’s really no point in even comparing the two experiences. There is nothing in common between the two. From the moment the girls take their first breath, they are sent the message that they are not fully human, not worthy of the full life’s experience– past childhood, often not even being allowed to leave the house– simply because they are female. How is it surprising that young girls would be willing to, even just temporarily, make the shift to living as young boys?

For those interested in exploring gender issues, this book is a must read, but really, it is a must read for anyone simply because these girls’ and women’s stories deserve to be heard. This book enthralled me, and saddened me, often making me wonder about the future welfare of the individuals to whom I was introduced. Though I cannot do anything to help these women, I think of them often, hoping that they are having at least a moment of peace.


Underground-Girls-of-Kabul-FL2W-Book-ClubThe online book club, From Left to Write, is featuring The Underground Girls of Kabul this month, and a collection of bloggers’ posts inspired by the reading of this book offers a wide variety of musings focused on gender. My own post, it might be simply pink vs. blue here, but it means so much more elsewhere, centers around my feelings during my first pregnancy when I longed to know the gender of my unborn child. Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to assist in my participation in the book club.

Email Author    |    Website About Dawn

When she's not reviewing books, Dawn (and her online alter ego, morninglight mama) can be found blogging at my thoughts exactly and contributing to The DC Moms.

View all articles by


This post may contain affiliate links. When you use them, you support this site. Thank you!
See our Disclosure Policy for details.

Beautiful Oblivion

Jamie McGuire blew the romance world off its socks with the Beautiful series (read my reviews of Beautiful Disaster, Walking Disaster, and the novella A Beautiful Wedding) featuring sexy underground fighter Travis and aloof card shark Abby.  She has continued the series with book 4, Beautiful Oblivion, this time featuring Travis’s brother Trenton and the object of his affection, Cami, the bartender who is Travis’s sounding board while he tries to figure out how to handle his feelings for Abby. Cami is happily tending bar at the Red Door, the popular hangout of nearby college students and locals, when Trent starts spending more time there. As they grow closer, Cami is torn between her feelings for Trent, who she’s known since grade school and is aware of
Read the full article →


To See the Moon Again {Review and #Giveaway}

This was my first time to read a Jamie Langston Turner novel, but it certainly won’t be my last! I was pulled into this long novel from the very start by the strong college town setting, multi-faceted characters, and beautiful writing. Julia Rich is at an interesting stage in her life. Her husband died suddenly last year, which has caused her to reflect on their marriage. Why didn’t she ever give herself fully to him? I actually wish that there had been more details about her husband, but sometimes we don’t have epiphanies about all the issues in our past that can be wrapped up in 400 pages, so I’m fine with a little mystery. The second big change in Julia’s life is that she’s
Read the full article →


Early Decision {Book Review and #Giveaway}

Having a daughter who is a junior year in college has made this college thing totally real for me. Lacy Crawford’s novel looks at the lives of privileged teens seeking to get into the best schools. There’s a fair dose of “poor little rich kid,” but as a parent, I also heeded the cautionary tale of taking hold of my daughter’s dreams instead of letting her pursue her own. Read my full review of Early Decision at 5 Minutes for Mom where you can also enter to win a giveaway.
Read the full article →


The Story of Land and Sea

When I was younger, I had a great-uncle who was a Merchant Marine. When he grew too old to care for himself, he lived in a nursing home for sailors on the coast of North Carolina. I fondly remember visiting him there, and have some not-so-fond memories of my history-buff mother dragging us to the historical sights in the area, including towns like Beaufort and New Bern.  The Story of Land and Sea takes place in those same towns around the time of the Revolutionary War, and fortunately I enjoyed it a great deal more than my childhood sight-seeing. John is happy with his life with his daughter Tabitha, though he misses his wife, Helen, who died giving birth to Tab. John’s only other family is Helen’s father,
Read the full article →


Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

I’ve been hearing a lot of Liane Moriarty lately, and as audiobook publishers tend to do, when an author takes off, they sometimes release backlist titles on audio for the first time (It’s also available on kindle for under $3 at the time of this writing). Three Wishes was first released over 10 years ago. It doesn’t feel at all dated, but I would wager that Moriarty’s work has gotten even stronger. I always love a good family novel, so the idea of a story centered around three adult triplets intrigued me. Cat, Lyn, and Gemma Kettle are different, if not in appearance, than in temperament and lifestyle. Lyn and Cat are identical blondes, and Gemma is a red-headed version of the sisters. Their mother
Read the full article →


Expecting, a Novel

Expecting is a novel by Ann Lewis Hamilton that is about exactly what you would think given the title and the cover art, sort of…. Laurie and Alan have been trying to have a baby, but it’s not been as easy as they had hoped it would be. After a couple of failed attempts – devastating miscarriages — their doctor recommends in vitro. I don’t want to spoil the plot twist (I wouldn’t read the plot description, because for some reason I was able to escape it and was surprised in a great way), but soon Laurie and Alan have to confront some issues about what a true parent is. The novel opens with Laurie rushing to the hospital with her college boarder behind the
Read the full article →


5 Novels Set in the Art World {Friday’s Five}

Disclosure: Copies of these books were all received for review at some point, but most have stuck with me these months or years later. Madame Picasso by Anne Girard is the book that gave me the idea for this post. I read it last month and did a post at 5 Minutes for Mom about Learning from Fiction, specifically about the art world. Picasso, Georges Braque and others are featured in this thoughtful novel. I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira features the friendship/relationship between Mary Cassat and Edgar Degas. Degas’ inspiration and style are explored, as well as Mary Cassat fitting into the Salon as a single American woman. I read Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace years ago. I don’t remember the details
Read the full article →


My Mother’s Secret: a Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story {with #Giveaway}

The reality of having to hide Jews to spare them from being victims of the Holocaust is a tragic one, but one with which every young teen is familiar due to the legacy of Anne Frank’s diary. My Mother’s Secret: A Novel Based on a True Holocaust Story is set in Poland. Helena begins the account by sharing her own story. Of course her mother Franciszka figures into it. As Helena grows her mother’s positive influence on her is evident. The story is then taken up by Bronek, a Jew who escapes the walled-off ghetto, then Mikolaj, a young Jewish boy whose father is a doctor, and then Vilheim, a German soldier, and finally wrapped up again by Helena. The different perspectives read like short
Read the full article →


Accidents of Marriage {with #Giveaway}

Accidents of Marriage opens with a glass broken, kicked across the floor in a moment of childish pique, and it foreshadows a story of a family walking on eggshells. Maddy is a social worker who meets regularly with a group of abused women, yet she rationalizes her own husband’s rages. She fell in love, years ago, with Ben, a passionate lawyer who works for the poor and disenfranchised, yet who has progressively given in to his anger as time passed. Maddy copes by keeping bags of pills squirreled away throughout the house and alternatively giving in to Ben in order to keep the peace and standing up to him to protect their 3 children; Emma, 15, Gracie, 9, and Caleb, 8. This fragile peace is
Read the full article →


Breaking the Silence

I have a tendency to procrastinate, and reviews without hard deadlines are usually the victims of this habit. So when I write up a book within hours of finishing it that’s a pretty good sign I really liked the book. I finished Diane Chamberlain’s Breaking the Silence just about 2 hours ago, and the only reason I didn’t sit down and write it up right then is I was sitting in my car, waiting for soccer practice to end, and then had to feed the kids. Pesky life getting in the way. Laura Brandon is woken in the middle of the night by a phone call that her father, who has been ill, is not going to live much longer. She gets to the hospital in
Read the full article →


Stanley the Builder and Stanley’s Garage #Giveaway

If you regularly spend time with toddlers and young preschoolers, you’ve likely learned just how interesting the immediate world around them can be. As a preschool teacher for over a decade, I took classes of three and four year old children on a multitude of field trips to places in our own neighborhood- the post office, the grocery store, restaurants, and the like- just so they could get an inside look at how places they’ve regularly visited actually work. Along that community theme, a new series of oversized board books featuring a handy, hard-working guinea pig are a wonderful addition to young readers’ collections. In Stanley the Builder and Stanley’s Garage, children are introduced to tools, construction vehicles, and real world jobs that relate to concepts in their
Read the full article →