An Amer­i­can Bride In Kab­ul: A Memoir

  • Review
By – May 13, 2013

This mem­oir by a promi­nent activist and fem­i­nist tells the sto­ry of a young Jew­ish Amer­i­can woman who mar­ries an Afghani for­eign stu­dent and goes to live with him in his family’s com­pound in Kab­ul, Afghanistan. Chesler meets her hus­band in the ear­ly 1960s, when she is a col­lege stu­dent and a roman­tic, enthralled with the pos­si­bil­i­ties of an exot­ic life. But life in Kab­ul is not roman­tic. Almost imme­di­ate­ly, she encoun­ters the chal­lenges of liv­ing as a part of her husband’s Mus­lim fam­i­ly. She strug­gles to under­stand her place and get along with the women of the house­hold, includ­ing the wives of her father-in-law. She grap­ples with the lack of free­dom for women, from the loss of her pass­port — con­fis­cat­ed at the air­port — to the soci­etal cus­toms that restrict her abil­i­ty to explore the city out­side the walls of the home where she lives. Indeed, the food almost kills her, and her home coun­try near­ly refus­es to take her back.

But Chesler also learns the mean­ing of friend­ship and the neces­si­ty of per­sis­tence. She finds the strength to escape and — more impor­tant­ly, after a life­time of reflec­tion — the under­stand­ing to process her expe­ri­ence and to com­mu­ni­cate to her read­ers what that expe­ri­ence rep­re­sents for her and what we might learn from her adven­ture. In this regard, the sec­tions on the his­to­ry of Afghanistan and the his­to­ry of Jews in Afghanistan are par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing. Chesler writes about this his­to­ry in light of mod­ern events and the recent and endur­ing Amer­i­can mil­i­tary pres­ence in Afghanistan. This approach right­ly pro­vides con­text, and read­ers will enjoy the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn about the region through such a per­son­al­ly com­pelling and eye-open­ing account. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, preface.

Rachel Sara Rosen­thal is an envi­ron­men­tal attor­ney in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Orig­i­nal­ly from Greens­boro, North Car­oli­na, she grad­u­at­ed from Duke Uni­ver­si­ty in 2003 and Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty School of Law in 2006.

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