Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan
Usually when I read a memoir, I don’t really expect to learn anything. I might laugh or cry at the writer’s personal tragedies, but my expectations for experiencing some profound level of enlightenment is absent. After reading Kabul in Winter, I will now only read memoirs that are as thoughtfully written, educational and eye-opening as Ann Jones’s account of her time spent in Afghanistan.
Even though this book will probably be found in the “Current Events” or “Politics” section of any radical bookstore, Jones’s account of her travels is better written than most memoirs. Immediately, the reader is dropped into the streets of Kabul post-US invasion of Afghanistan. Permeating every personal thought that Jones includes is an historical account of the political situations of Kabul. Jones takes us through the streets, the prisons and the schools of Afghanistan’s capital, describing the city’s horrendous situation without ever provoking the reader to view the people of Kabul as a charity case. Jones has the professional and intelligent capability of showing a situation, yet not sensationalizing a marginalized community that so many authors and journalists are incapable of achieving.
Most of the previous reviews of this book have used either the words “haunting” or “disturbing” to describe Jones’s exposition. The word that came to my mind when I read it was “honest.” Your response to the book will probably depend on where you are coming from politically. If you are new to thinking about the corruption in international politics, what a city looks like after it has been through a war, and how women are treated in patriarchal and sexist societies, then the narrative will probably feel like a “haunting” account. If, however, you are aware of the destruction that the US did (and still does) to Afghanistan, how women are treated in prisons and that not every school in the world has sufficient materials or even a classroom in which to instruct children, then you will extremely appreciate Jones’s honesty and unwavering attention to detail.
Also, a feminist rhythm pulses throughout her entire narrative, as Jones decided to report on the situation of the women’s prison instead of discussing the difficulty of men finding jobs in Kabul. Not that one of these topics is more important than the other, but Jones finds a way to report on the plight of women that dominant media sources usually ignore. I had such pleasure, yet also a strange sense of relief to read Jones’s feminist, honest memoir and political portrayal of Kabul.