In My Father's Country by Saima Wahab

76%

16 Critic Reviews

In vibrant but understated prose, Wahab vividly portrays a misunderstood culture, as well as the tense life on military bases where everyone must wear body armor and carry a weapon.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, at age three Saima Wahab watched while her father was arrested and taken from their home by the KGB.  She would never see him again. When she was fifteen an uncle who lived in Portland, Oregon brought her to America.  Having to learn an entire new language, she nonetheless graduated from high school in three years and went on to earn a bachelor's degree.  In 2004 she signed on with a defense contractor to work as an interpreter in Afghanistan, never realizing that she would blaze the trail for a new kind of diplomacy, earning the trust of both high-ranking U.S. army officials and Afghan warlords alike.           
 
When she arrived in Afghanistan in the winter of 2004, Saima was among the few college-educated female Pashto speakers in the entire country. She was stunned to learn how little U.S. and coalition forces knew about the Pashtun, who comprise 40% of the population and from whom the Taliban arose. The blessing of the Pashtun is essential, but the U.S. army was so unaware of the workings of this ancient, proud, insular ethic group, that they would routinely send Farsi interpreters into Pashtun villages.  As a Pashtun-born American citizen, Saima found herself in an extraordinary position—to be able to explain the people of her native land to those of her adopted one, and vice versa, in a quest to forge new and lasting bonds between two misunderstood cultures.
 
In My Father’s Country
follows her amazing transformation from child refugee to nervous Pashtun interpreter to intrepid “human terrain” specialist, venturing with her twenty-five-soldier force pro-tection into isolated Pashtun villages to engage hostile village elders in the first, very frank dialogue they had ever had with the Americans.

From her posting at the forward operating base Farah in Afghanistan’s blistering western frontier to the year she spent in Jalalabad translating for provincial governor “Hollywood Pashtun” Sherzai to the near-suicide missions of a year and a half in the Khost Province, where before every mission, she left instructions on how to dispose of her belongings, having to face the very real possibility of not coming back alive, Saima Wahab’s is an incomparable story of one young woman’s unwavering courage and undaunted spirit.


 
 

About Saima Wahab

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SAIMA WAHAB was born in Afghanistan, went to Pakistan as a refugee, and moved to the United States as a teenager. Since then she has become one of the only Pashtun female translators in the world, and-among other consequent roles-has returned to Afghanistan several times to work as a cultural adviser with the U.S. Army. She lives in Washington, D.C.
 
Published April 24, 2012 by Crown. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Aug 26 2012
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for In My Father's Country
All: 16 | Positive: 14 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
Mar 01 2012

A carefully wrought work that allows a rare look inside Pashtun culture.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Mar 19 2012

In vibrant but understated prose, Wahab vividly portrays a misunderstood culture, as well as the tense life on military bases where everyone must wear body armor and carry a weapon.

Read Full Review of In My Father's Country | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Destination Wake Forest

Excellent
Reviewed by Julie on May 14 2012

Overall, this was an incredibly informative memoir that helped me better understand the point of view of the Afghan people, and the role of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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Jenn's Bookshelves

Good
Reviewed by Jenn on May 17 2012

Saima’s story opened up my eyes to a whole new world, a whole new Afghanistan...This, by far, is one of the most memorable memoirs I have ever read...

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She Knows

Good
Reviewed by Vera Pereskokova on May 16 2012

She may have started her journey hoping to learn more about her own roots, but the resulting book will bring a greater understanding of Afghanistan to many readers.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on May 16 2012

She was determined to fulfill what had been foretold by her father...The story of Wahab's journey to do just that is an eye-opening look at her heritage and an inspiration.

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Musings of a Bookish Kitty

Good
Reviewed by Wendy Runyon on May 08 2012

I only hope there are more women--and even men--out there like her who truly want to make a difference and do it right.

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A Bookish Affair

Good
Reviewed by Meg on May 03 2012

She's definitely a person that you just really have to be in wow of.

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Broken Teepee

Below average
May 01 2012

My problems lie with Saima's inability to reconcile her two sides, the Afghan and the American...Her constant war between her two sides gets very old in the reading.

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Unabridged Chick

Good
Reviewed by Audra on Apr 25 2012

Memoir fans will absolutely want to get this one; anyone interested in learning more about the current conflict in Afghanistan will find this a great introduction from someone who loves the country.

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Book Club Classics

Good
Reviewed by Kristen on May 09 2012

Fortunately, Wahab’s ability to spin a narrative is as captivating as her life story. A true heroine’s journey, Wahab’s life jumps off the page and inspires as it entertains.

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Book Dilettante

Good
Reviewed by Harvee Lau on May 07 2012

A compelling book on several levels, I recommend it to those interested in the fight of women in traditional societies for a better life and individual freedom and for those interested in the culture and politics of Aghanistan.

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Twisting the Lens

Good
May 22 2012

Every bit of me is glad that I read this account of an amazing and nearly fearless woman.

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Chew and Digest Books

Good
Reviewed by Gwen on May 21 2012

So many memoirs you read are along the lines of “life there was horrible for women, then I moved here and I can wear jeans and am so happy.” This wasn’t that, Saima truly loves her country and understands it.

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2 Kids and Tired Books

Good
May 23 2012

Thank you Saima, for a wonderful and moving book that widened my understanding, and enriched my soul.

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Bibliosue

Below average
Apr 30 2012

Generally when I read a memoir I feel like I have been immersed in that person’s life...With this memoir, however, I didn’t feel close to the author at all.

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Reader Rating for In My Father's Country
83%

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