Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — Afghan women have been marginalized, either ruthlessly suppressed by oppressive regimes, or portrayed as stereotypes by a media that shows them as submissive and primitive victims, while in truth they continue to endure the harsh realities of a nation locked in crisis. Author Anosha Roya Zereh aims to circumvent the ongoing and simplistic pigeonholing of the nation’s women and pierce the veil of dehumanization to show the world the true story of all the mothers, wives and daughters of Afghanistan. With her new book, she tells the story of The Afghan Mona Lisa: An Epic of the Unvoiced and Anonymous Women of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has known decades of conflict, from the Soviet invasion of the 1980s, to the brutal civil war of the 1990s that saw the rise of the Taliban regime, and the American War on Terror that began in 2001 and rages on to this day. Foreign soldiers and mercenaries, mujahedeen, Taliban fighters, Al-Qaeda insurgents, men – armed and dangerous men, in particular – have long dominated the image Afghanistan projects to the rest of the world, the artifact of the Cold War residual left in Afghanistan’s back yard. At the same time, the unsung women of the nation have been ignored, or portrayed with a dehumanized stereotype, a demoralized and marginalized image sapped of quintessence. They are shown as veiled primitives inferior to their Western counterparts, in a biased narrative promoting Eurocentric ideals while ignoring the stark truth, that they are human beings, with human experiences, and their own voices. This is the bland, un-nuanced and misinformed stereotype that The Afghan Mona Lisa repudiates. Through her work, Zereh gives them a chance to speak out for themselves, on their own terms, in an unprejudiced manner undiluted by the lens of Western preconceptions.
For over a decade, Zereh has investigated and listened to long hours of heartbreaking stories by Afghan women in numerous countries, conversed with old and young women, and read plentiful anecdotes and narratives around the world. Although she cannot claim what they have experienced completely, Zereh has exerted years of love inscribing for them their narratives, their depiction of what took place in their lives, as well as their interpretation of their struggles and daily burdens. Although they are the author’s words, nevertheless they represent the Afghan women’s rightful voice. While it is the author’s pen that was used to write these poems, infused in every poem, in every verse, is the fighting potency of these women.
Through Zereh’s ultimately humanistic and eye-opening work, readers will witness for themselves the long-suffering endured by Afghan women and the nation’s dire need for women’s rights, which is echoed throughout the book. In her own words, she hopes that by reading The Afghan Mona Lisa, “we take our mental borders off, and accept each other without indifference, and see one another as the offspring’s of a global clan.”
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About the Author
Anosha Roya Zereh is a humanitarian working with orphaned children and widowed woman in Afghanistan. She lives with her husband and two children in Berkeley California.
The Afghan Mona Lisa * by Anosha Roya Zereh An Epic of the Unvoiced and Anonymous Women of Afghanistan Publication Date: June 20, 2013 Trade Paperback; $15.99; 88 pages; 978-1-4836-4683-1 Trade Hardback; $24.99; 88 pages; 978-1-4836-4684-8 eBook; $3.99; 978-1-4836-4685-5
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