A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar
An Afghan Family Story

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Mind-boggling yet matter-of-fact, “A Fort of Nine Towers” is the memoir of a childhood in ’90s Afghanistan — a riveting story of war as seen through a child’s eyes and summoned from an adult’s memory.
-NY Times

Synopsis

One of the rare memoirs of Afghanistan to have been written by an Afghan, A Fort of Nine Towers reveals the richness and suffering of life in a country whose history has become deeply entwined with our own.

For the young Qais Akbar Omar, Kabul was a city of gardens where he flew kites from his grandfather's roof with his cousin Wakeel while their parents, uncles, and aunts drank tea around a cloth spread in the grass. It was a time of telling stories, reciting poetry, selling carpets, and arranging marriages.Then civil war exploded. Their neighborhood found itself on the front line of a conflict that grew more savage by the day.

With rockets falling around them, Omar's family fled, leaving behind everything they owned to take shelter in an old fort-only a few miles distant and yet a world away from the gunfire. As the violence escalated, Omar's father decided he must take his children out of the country to safety. On their perilous journey, they camped in caves behind the colossal Buddha statues in Bamyan, and took refuge with nomad cousins, herding their camels and sheep. While his father desperately sought smugglers to take them over the border, Omar grew up on the road, and met a deaf-mute carpet weaver who would show him his life's purpose.

Later, as the Mujahedin war devolved into Taliban madness, Omar learned about quiet resistance. He survived a brutal and arbitrary imprisonment, and, at eighteen, opened a secret carpet factory to provide work for neighborhood girls, who were forbidden to go to school or even to leave their homes. As they tied knots at their looms, Omar's parents taught them literature and science.

In this stunning coming-of-age memoir, Omar recounts terrifyingly narrow escapes and absurdist adventures, as well as moments of intense joy and beauty. In?ected with folktales, steeped in poetry, A Fort of Nine Towers is a life-affirming triumph.
A Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book of 2013
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of 2013

 

About Qais Akbar Omar

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Qais Akbar Omar is a carpet designer and the manager of a fourth-generation carpet business in Kabul. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado and is currently a student in the MBA program at Brandeis University. He lives in Boston, MA.
 
Published April 8, 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 409 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Fort of Nine Towers
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Mythili G. Rao on Jun 21 2013

Mind-boggling yet matter-of-fact, “A Fort of Nine Towers” is the memoir of a childhood in ’90s Afghanistan — a riveting story of war as seen through a child’s eyes and summoned from an adult’s memory.

Read Full Review of A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afg... | See more reviews from NY Times

Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Jack Goodstein on Apr 11 2014

The memoir is a testimony, not only of the evils man has done to man, but of man’s ability to rise above those evils...Omar writes with a lucid pen. His narrative is straight forward and pulls no punches. He draws you in with his honesty. Once read, this is a book that will be hard to forget.

Read Full Review of A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afg... | See more reviews from Blog Critics

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