Skin deep

Last week I was standing in a bookstore, looking for something trashy and utterly mindless to buy. I picked up Deborah Rodriguez’s “Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.” and read the first chapter, which was around all I could handle.

I realize that I was far from the target audience for such a book. I’ve never had a haircut in my life, and I’ve never been to a spa. I’m not a very sympathetic audience for stories about how the women of Kabul felt better inside because they felt more glamorous outside (well, inside their burkas). Furthermore, I am a guy, and this was a tremendously girly book:

When Deborah Rodriguez arrived in Kabul in 2002 as part of a charitable aid mission, what she saw appalled her… It was a land of bad haircuts, poorly applied makeup and no styling gel. To Rodriguez, a Michigan hairdresser with a can-do attitude, task No. 1 was obvious: get these poor people some beauty salons. [Link]

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p>Despite my lack of personal experience with the topic, I was willing to suspend disbelief and work with the book’s basic premise, namely:

…hairdressing … is one of the few truly viable options for would-be female Afghan entrepreneurs. There’s a huge demand for such services, as many Afghan women sport elaborate hair and makeup styles under their burqas. At the same time, it’s work that can be done entirely in female company – a necessity in a segregated society. [Link]

<

p>My problem was not the subject but the condescending tone of the book. It was “City of Joy” meets “Steel Magnolias,” the usual story of somebody in the first world who finds their calling “helping” people in the third world, where the only purpose of the poor and unfortunate is to serve as a backdrop to the protagonist’s journey.

For example, the opening chapter tells of “Roshanna,” a friend who had been raped and thus was no longer a virgin. Roshanna was terrified of her wedding night, when eager crowds await a bloody rag — the telltale sign of virginity.

Ms. Rodriguez sprung into action, whipping out nail clippers, cutting her finger, dripping blood on a handkerchief and instructing Roshanna to place it under a cushion. When the time came, she could swap it with another one. The next morning, she writes: “When I rush into the hallway, I see that Roshanna’s mother is wailing for joy. ‘Virgin!’ she shouts at me triumphantly, waving the handkerchief stained with my blood. ‘Virgin!’ “… [Link]

<

p>C’mon now. Afghan women have never figured out how to fool their husbands with chicken blood after thousands of years? It took a spunky hairdresser from Michigan with a can do attitude to come up with this? Roshanna’s mother didn’t help her, and was even fooled by the simple deception? As if!

<

p> What’s more, the story in the first chapter and what I skimmed in the rest of the book felt … fake. Others who were there feel the same way and are raising questions about the veracity of the accounts in the book:

… the women believe that the discrepancies are too vast to call the book a memoir. They even question whether the stories Ms. Rodriguez tells about Afghan women — disturbing, heartbreaking tales of abuse — are real… [Link]

Another reason why I distrusted the author was because I had heard of this beauty school before, but in a different context. There had been a documentary called “The Beauty Academy of Kabul” about the same school, which was not founded by Ms. Rodriguez (as the press release for the book and most of the reviews claim), but instead had been taken over by her instead. The other women involved with the project are quite bitter about this:

The idea came from Mary MacMakin, an American who had lived in Afghanistan for more than 25 years, who was the subject of a March 2001 Vogue article. Ms. MacMakin, now 78, suggested to Terri Grauel, the stylist on the photo shoot, that learning hairdressing and makeup techniques would help Afghan women gain financial independence and self-esteem. Ms. Grauel enlisted the help of Ms. O’Connor, a beauty industry consultant, and together they rallied Vogue, Clairol, MAC Cosmetics and others, collecting mascaras, lipsticks, dyes and shampoos. Eventually, they hoped to take the program, which they called Beauty Without Borders, to women around the world. With donations, they erected a building at the Afghan Women’s Ministry…

… They say that, instead of being its savior, as she [Rodriguez] represents, she plotted to move the school from the Women’s Ministry to the house she shares with her Afghan/Uzbek husband, Sher (called Sam in the book). And, they said, she did it for personal gain. [Link]

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p>Neither her publisher nor her agent seem too worried about any of this:

“Journalists know about fact-checking,” he said. “Beauticians know about hair dye and shampoo…” [Link]

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p>And the book is already an instant best-seller, with a film deal in the works:

The book has been widely praised, hitting No. 10 on the New York Times best-seller list this week and receiving a “six figure” deal from Columbia Pictures. [Link]

<

p>

So read it if you wish, but if you find yourself as cranky as I was after just a few pages of the book, don’t saw I didn’t warn you.

48 thoughts on “Skin deep

  1. Reminds me of those girls in Daria whose charity work is making the unfortunate more fashionable.

  2. yuck.

    thank you for your biased book review. as an avid reader, i can’t tell you how many people recommend books like this to me and i gag after the first page.

    good to find someone who feels the same. :)

  3. “Journalists know about fact-checking,” he said. “Beauticians know about hair dye and shampoo…”

    The whole memoir versus journalistic storytelling (or autobiography) is an interesting one- I was sitting in the audience at a Memoir panel at the LA Times Festival of Books this weekend. There was a journalist on the panel who was very research oriented in his fact checking, and there fiction writers on the panel that were less vigilant. Memoirs are essentially how you personally remember stories, through this other lens, and sometimes what you construct as your memeory isn’t neccesarily factual, though the constructed memory is how you choose to tell the story.

    I’m not saying the book sounds good- it looks “pink”-book/chick-lit and having PR go around saying you founded the company is gross misrepresentation. But who are we to say that “the discrepancies are too vast to call the book a memoir”? When do we challenge the memoir to be invalid as your created memory? When it makes Oprah mad (wrt Frey)?

  4. Says Ennis: “C’mon now. Afghan women have never figured out how to fool their husbands with chicken blood after thousands of years? It took a spunky hairdresser from Michigan with a can do attitude to come up with this? Roshanna’s mother didn’t help her, and was even fooled by the simple deception? As if!”

    From the NyTimes: “The next morning, she writes: “When I rush into the hallway, I see that Roshanna’s mother is wailing for joy. ‘Virgin!’ she shouts at me triumphantly, waving the handkerchief stained with my blood. ‘Virgin!’ ”

    Sima Calkin, 51, an Afghan American living in Falls Church, Va., and former volunteer, questioned why Debbie, and not the mother, fixed the problem.

    Ms. O’Connor said: “These women have been through gazillions of wars, and survived all sorts of unbelievable circumstances and this one thing they couldn’t handle?”

    ======

    Now the question is did Ennis read the Nytimes article before or after writing his article on SepiaMutiny.

    :)

  5. I saw a documentary on the same issue- must have been based on the book.. We thought the comments of the US ladies was quite interesting- there was a part about how the Afghan ladies should take some time to meditate at the beginning of the day, etc.

    But, the whole project did seem to benefit the ladies.. they gained skills, jobs, $$, useful esp. when the men couldn’t find work…

    btw, does anyone here know about embalming services in punjab? My dad just passed away there and we’re having difficulty finding anyone who does that there..

  6. The woman in the cover looks beautiful but she looks ‘Desi’. I don’t mind, but should they not put a pashtun, tajik or hazara on the cover to be accurate about the demographics in Afghanistan – someone like this or this.

  7. Reminds me of the scene in the movie Airplane! when Elaine is having a tupperwear party in Africa

  8. Avi, Pashtuns’ and other Afghans’ looks run a wide gamut. The woman pictured on the cover is very plausibly Afghan.

  9. I can’t remember who said it, but I read an article recently about this very subject. Even when the novel has nothing to do with the hijab or veil, a novel by or about Muslim women, will feature the whole orientalised burqa thin, and this Muslim woman writer said something like ‘Publishing companies impose the veil on women as much as anyone else these days’

    The fact is, these books are marketed to the mainstream — and as the great mango-curry-mehndi genre shows, they like dusky people whose names evoke sitar twangs in their heads to be easily reducible and identifiable.

  10. Thank you so much for giving us a different perspective on this book. I fell for this story completely. However, I do not agree that the poor and unfortunate are just a backdrop for the protagonist’s life journey because she married an Afghan and lives in Kabul. She has to have some sincerity.

  11. Red Snapper, that might have been Asra Nomani’s article in Slate from a couple of months ago (about the stock images of Veiled Beauties that are de rigueur for any book about Islam or Muslim women)

  12. Thanks SP, I must have read it quoted in another article because I’ve never read Slate before, but the name does ring a bell.

  13. I can see how this book seems annoying in a variety of ways, but I still can’t see where any of this is stuff is a problem besides bruising some delicate egos once again over the fact that “white” folks helped brown folks and wrote a book about it. If that weren’t the case, then idiotic scenes like this one:

    “The next morning, she writes: “When I rush into the hallway, I see that Roshanna’s mother is wailing for joy. ‘Virgin!’ she shouts at me triumphantly, waving the handkerchief stained with my blood. ‘Virgin!’ ”

    wouldn’t be written about.

    And yes, I know brown people help others too and publishers don’t care about it. I know, it sucks, but people living in the west like to read stories about their own types of people helping other people. Just like we like to read stories of our types helping others.

  14. I can see how this book seems annoying in a variety of ways, but I still can’t see where any of this is stuff is a problem besides bruising some delicate egos once again over the fact that “white” folks helped brown folks and wrote a book about it.

    I have no problem with either (a) white folks helping brown folks and (b) write folks writing a book about helping brown folks.

    There are LOTS of problems in the world and I have no problem accepting help from any body who wants to help.

    However, if you read my review, Zoroastrian, you’ll see that my problem is with the tone of the writing. I found it both condescending and not believable. As I also pointed out, other women (yes, white women) who were present think that Rodriguez made some of these stories up.

    If my ego was so bruised by the fact that “white” people helped “brown” people, why would I give these other women as much credit as I did?

    She has to have some sincerity.

    Kalli Billi – I guess that’s what I thought was lacking, which is why I found it interesting that others are questioning the factual basis for her book.

    Now the question is did Ennis read the Nytimes article before or after writing his article on SepiaMutiny.

    Shaaz – I read the book before I read the NYT review, and that’s when I came up with my reaction. However, I wrote my review after the NYT review, as you can see from the fact that I quoted that very same passage, with a citation to the NYT, in the body of my review.

  15. I had very similar issues with ‘The Bookseller from Kabul’, which we covered for a class recently. I am probably not clamoring to read this one :)

  16. I saw a documentary on the same issue- must have been based on the book.

    Harminder – the documentary predates the book. The documentary is about the founding of the school by a group of women, the book is about a woman who joins later and who takes over the school. The book makes it seem like this later woman actually founded the school, hence the bad blood.

  17. I saw the book reviewed online and it seemed sketch from the get-go. I like the idea of sharing skills- but its annoying to see the whole “savior” bit.

    I do remember going to an all women’s shopping mall (it was posh!) in Dubai and saw the most elaborate, elegant and sexy things they were selling for women to wear underneath their burqas.

  18. Although I have never read the book, it might sound a bit condescending. Of course Afghani women have much, much bigger tissues to deal with than just lip gloss and glitter nail polish. However, many women who go through extremely stressful events (like chemotherapy) seem to get a small and temporary lift in spirits and confidence when they get a makeover, etc. It appears the author and beautician had good intentions. (But it sounds like some facts in the book are under suspicion).

    Unfortunately, most of society will judge women on outward appearance. It can be very hard to prove its existence, just like trying to prove age and race discrimination. I believe Afghani women are naturally beautiful and really don’t need makeovers in general.

    One could make the argument that Afghani women can be taught medititation, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry, journal writing, scrap booking etc. as a catharsis. Those would also be a creative outlet and a way to forget about their troubles at least for a moment. I am unsure how much leisure time the average Afghani would have to devote to self expression, but it doesn’t sound like too much. This is just my opinion.

  19. For example, the opening chapter tells of “Roshanna,” a friend who had been raped and thus was no longer a virgin. Roshanna was terrified of her wedding night, when eager crowds await a bloody rag — the telltale sign of virginity. Ms. Rodriguez sprung into action, whipping out nail clippers, cutting her finger, dripping blood on a handkerchief and instructing Roshanna to place it under a cushion. When the time came, she could swap it with another one. The next morning, she writes: “When I rush into the hallway, I see that Roshanna’s mother is wailing for joy. ‘Virgin!’ she shouts at me triumphantly, waving the handkerchief stained with my blood. ‘Virgin!’

    As insane as this sounds and perhaps there is exaggeration involved I really don’t find it completely unrealistic to believe. The mother daughter relationship is extremely complex, add to that cultural expectations and deception can be easily involved. Think of our own culture where we hide so many things from our own parents for fear of so many different reactions and how it affects our relationship with them.

    In the middle east for example in Bahrain it’s not very uncommon to have girls brought into Ob/Gyns by prospective MILs and mothers to get ‘checked’ for their virginity and when the girls aren’t virgins the mothers more often than not don’t know it and perpetuate the demands from the culture just as much as the MILs. And yes in that case the attending doctor usually saves the girl by saying ‘yes she is a virgin’ and more often than not explains that ‘she doesn’t have to bleed even if she is a virgin’ to help her.

  20. Ennis, sorry, wasn’t trying to slam you. I agree that it seems flimsy and my gut reaction was that yet another westerner is making the same stupid presumptions that people starving halfway around the world actually give a shit about what she thinks is good for them.

    But after that initial reaction, I think her trying to construct a female (or any sex) business model is a positive thing and regardless of my personal feelings towards her, or her type, we should try to be positive about her trying to do something positive for that country.

    Who knows, maybe it will be something as ridiculous as starting a beauty shop in one of the most backwards places on earth that leads to change. Personally I think until the people in the region are willing and able to stand up to the Taliban themselves, they’ll always have problems.

    How people like Musharraff keep bowing to every ridiculous demand of the radicals in Pakistan, the longer shit like this goes on.

  21. JOAT, As insane as this sounds and perhaps there is exaggeration involved I really don’t find it completely unrealistic to believe. True. Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel “Embroideries” is about the very same issue but in Iran. Apparently, an “embroidery” is an Ob/Gyn procedure that women go through to be able to ‘fake virginity’. It is about a bunch of women who meet for tea and tell stories. A great read.

  22. Make that : “Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel “Embroideries” also mentions this issue of the ‘virginity test’.”

  23. I like that you exposed what is most likely an obvious lie: that both the Afghanistani woman and her mother were clueless about how to fake virgin blood. It’s interesting how commonly they’re manufactured in our culture in this way. Recently Obama was caught in such a lie when he claimed to have read a magazine article around age 9 from Life or Ebony with a photo about an african american man that scarred his skin trying to lighten it, that had a big impact on his life choices. I suspect Yoshino is manufacturing a similar lie in “Covering” when he discusses a desi Rhodes Scholar that he claims tried to lighten his skin with bleach. And I suspect there are numerous examples of this in Debra Dickerson’s writings too.

  24. But after that initial reaction, I think her trying to construct a female (or any sex) business model is a positive thing and regardless of my personal feelings towards her, or her type, we should try to be positive about her trying to do something positive for that country.

    It might be, which is why I gave the second quote in the post. I reserve judgment on the matter. However, this is what one Afghan women’s group said:

    “Women in Afghanistan need midwives, then mascara,” claimed a spokesperson for the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan. [Link]

    JoaT:

    As insane as this sounds and perhaps there is exaggeration involved I really don’t find it completely unrealistic to believe. The mother daughter relationship is extremely complex, add to that cultural expectations and deception can be easily involved.

    The example you proceed to give though, is of MILs, not mothers. Even if she couldn’t get her mother to help her, how about her girlfriends? How about herself? It’s the oldest trick in the book – even I knew it. It’s hard to believe that the only person who thought about faking the blood was an outsider who swooped in to save the day. This is why I’m inclined to believe the other American women when they said that they had no recollection of anybody like Roshanna in their school.

  25. The example you proceed to give though, is of MILs, not mothers. Even if she couldn’t get her mother to help her, how about her girlfriends? How about herself? It’s the oldest trick in the book – even I knew it. It’s hard to believe that the only person who thought about faking the blood was an outsider who swooped in to save the day.

    See I think it’s seriously dangerous to make those assumptions. I’m not protecting this author or her authenticity, I really could care less but it concerns me when we make cultural assumptions because we think we know something better. Mothers perpetuate half the things MILs do, hell my own mother who is a surgeon, modern and knows me better than anyone else tells me to give into some utterly bullshit things in the name of culture.

    And obviously you haven’t been around a new couple on their first night and the actual logistics of pulling off a fake virginity in the chaos. Not that I have but let me tell you with so many people in your business and with the groom being asked to watch for things it’s not quite easy to pull off.

  26. Hmmm. If the author was in the documentary, I’d have to guess she was the annoying lady with the red hair. When I saw the documentary at the theater, I thought the sense of community and independence they were able to offer the women was great but there was this one annoying hairdresser who took issue with every other thing about the women’s lives. It was like she wanted to turn them in to American feminists. I enjoyed watching one of the Afghan women take her to task on it in front of the class.

  27. I’d have to guess she was the annoying lady with the red hair.

    She is.

    obviously you haven’t been around a new couple on their first night and the actual logistics of pulling off a fake virginity in the chaos

    But all of that still applies to the story as it stands. Rodriguez claims she came up with the idea, and provided the handkerchief and the blood. I’m pretty sure other people knew how to do it, and could have done something similar. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

    The bride still had to deal with the chaos and pull the switch, so if your skepticism is correct, it’s even less likely to be an accurately told story.

  28. The bride still had to deal with the chaos and pull the switch, so if your skepticism is correct, it’s even less likely to be an accurately told story.

    I’m not defending the possibility at all, to me that’s a non issue. What I’m defending is the possiblity that such cases exist where the girls are subject to cultural moral standards even by their mothers so we shouldn’t make assumptions that a third party intervention isn’t possible because a mother is present.

  29. LOL, Ennis. My instincts rarely fail me!

    She’s quite a bit of a jerk.

    She kept railing on how the women wouldn’t be more “adventurous” in their choice of hair color and styles and one of the ladies finally told her in so many words: Look, you American women can do whatever you want, but we have husbands and family members to consider. We appreciate the training but we’re not here to change our culture, we’re here to learn how to support ourselves.

    I wish she came to the hood and tried to pull that attitude. She would have gotten told off week 1 not week 12.

  30. I saw the documentary and found the home salons in Kabul were a wonderful effort. It was not because women were covering their grays, but women were being empowered as entrepreneurs. They showed women who were actually bringing income into the house, since their husbands were out of work so long. They were hiring other women to help them run their home beauty salons. It was very inspiring how such a simple thing as a beauty salon could be so important.

    So, it seems like the book and the movie had different POV’s and raised different conclusions.

  31. Slightly OT but still book related, have you seen the link in the news tab to a new novel called ‘The Hindi-Bindi Club’?

    I just read the synopsis and screamed. Then I googled and saw that it’s going to published in the UK too, and I screamed again. Then I read the synopsis again and screamed again. I’m screaming now, thinking of the synopsis.

    Am I going mad or does anyone else have this urge, when reading the plot and characters of this book? Please tell me, I am not alone.

  32. Synopsis of Hindi-Bindi

    For decades they have remained close, sharing treasured recipes, honored customs, and the challenges of women shaped by ancient ways yet living modern lives.

    Recipes! Curries! Spice! Ancient and Modern!

    They are the Hindi-Bindi Club, a nickname given by their American daughters to the mothers who left India to start anew—daughters now grown and facing struggles of their own.

    Wow! Hindi-Bindi, so ethnic. Indian mothers and daughters in generation gap drama, book named after their ‘club’, so original.

    For Kiran, Preity, and Rani, adulthood bears the indelible stamp of their upbringing, from the ways they tweak their mothers’ cooking to suit their Western lifestyles to the ways they reject their mothers’ most fervent beliefs. Now, bearing the disappointments and successes of their chosen paths, these daughters are drawn inexorably home.

    Ah! Cooking, curry, mmmmmmmmmmm, spicy. And of course, blending food as a metaphor for a bit of East and West, making new fusion foods. Gosh never heard of that one before.

    Kiran, divorced, will seek a new beginning—this time requesting the aid of an ancient tradition she once dismissed.

    Ancient traditions!

    Preity will confront an old heartbreak—and a hidden shame.

    Hidden shameful secrets!

    And Rani will face her demons as an artist and a wife.

    Demons! Art! Rebellious daughters! Bitter sweet east and west and curry!

    All will question whether they have the courage of the Hindi-Bindi Club, to hold on to their dreams—or to create new ones.

    Oh I wonder which it will be.

    An elegant tapestry of East and West, peppered with food and ceremony, wisdom and sensuality, this luminous novel breathes new life into timeless themes.

    I can’t wait! It definitely sounds original so far, East and West senuality and tapestry, food and ceremony. I think the Nobel committee just fainted.

  33. “I can’t wait! It definitely sounds original so far, East and West senuality and tapestry, food and ceremony. I think the Nobel committee just faint”

    RS – I think Amy Tan just fainted too!!

    BTW, isn’t the sexy sari on the cover also a requirement?

    I can’t believe there’s still a market for this kind of lit. If you’re caught between cultures, how many books do you need to read?

  34. BTW, isn’t the sexy sari on the cover also a requirement?

    ill admit. this description is what made me click on the link…

  35. I can’t believe there’s still a market for this kind of lit. If you’re caught between cultures, how many books do you need to read?

    Here’s two novels just published here in the UK by British Desi authors:

    Ishq and Mushq by Priya Basil

    Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki

    Both pan-generational family tales spanning the sub-continent and Britain, both featuring food and curry as central metaphors, even including that sensuality vibe in their titles.

    So you know what to do, if you want to get published guys. They love curry, they want curry novels, with a generation gap, and East and West things and bits.

  36. “The woman in the cover looks beautiful but she looks ‘Desi’. I don’t mind, but should they not put a pashtun, tajik or hazara on the cover to be accurate about the demographics in Afghanistan – someone like this or this.”

    Ah, she could be Afghan or Iranian or something…

  37. Slightly-to-completely-off-tagent..but i have to vent about this LAT travel article in the Sunday paper. It was so consistently patroniszing i was riveted. I wanted to throw my chappals at the clay pot hanging from my brocade ceiling.

  38. I can’t believe there’s still a market for this kind of lit. If you’re caught between cultures, how many books do you need to read?

    Ashi, as I read the snippets of the decription, it occurred to me that – absent the spices and rehashed giant bullseye Indian cultural indicators – this book sounds like something that could have been written by Dublin native, Maeve Binchy. That is, a book about women and their relationships. Not Literature with an “L”, but sometimes a page-turning read on the train nonetheless.

    And then I got to wondering if maybe some of the audience for these books is not confused 2nd genners, but non-desi women who like Maeve Binchy-type novels and who get pulled in by the exotica on the cover….

  39. As insane as this sounds and perhaps there is exaggeration involved I really don’t find it completely unrealistic to believe. The mother daughter relationship is extremely complex, add to that cultural expectations and deception can be easily involved. Think of our own culture where we hide so many things from our own parents for fear of so many different reactions and how it affects our relationship with them. In the middle east for example in Bahrain it’s not very uncommon to have girls brought into Ob/Gyns by prospective MILs and mothers to get ‘checked’ for their virginity and when the girls aren’t virgins the mothers more often than not don’t know it and perpetuate the demands from the culture just as much as the MILs. And yes in that case the attending doctor usually saves the girl by saying ‘yes she is a virgin’ and more often than not explains that ‘she doesn’t have to bleed even if she is a virgin’ to help her.

    TRUE.

  40. Filmiholic – Maeve Binchy does a better job of writing, and her plots aren’t all about just one main character.

  41. Hamara Ennis is familiar with Maeve Binchy’s writing!?

    WOW. I would have never thought it!

    (And you do have a point. She was stuck in the ’50s for quite a long time in her books, but, to her credit, she has moved ahead chronologically and geographically. She did a reading in NY years ago – a very rare thing indeed – and she was great fun to listen to. Just wind her up and let her go, and she seemed to go on until the Q & A without taking a breath!)

  42. The virginity test and ways around it are a standard fixture of Arab society too. Hymenoplasties are popular procedures among women from wealthy backgrounds in the Gulf, particularly. In fact the official state mufti of Egypt OKed them as a mark of repentance for past promiscuities (most people found that really funny, though conservative folks were not amused).

    Marjane Satrapi’s books are a riot. She’s amazing.

  43. “The woman in the cover looks beautiful but she looks ‘Desi’. I don’t mind, but should they not put a pashtun, tajik or hazara on the cover to be accurate about the demographics in Afghanistan – someone like this or this.”

    Ah, she could be Afghan or Iranian or something…

    but its still feeding into the Western person’s mindset of what an Afghan looks like. Because Afghans are brown, they’re a part of those “brown” ppl that harass Israel all the way to the “brown” people in the southern tip of that place next to where thai food comes from, and some of those “brown” people travel to Mexico so they can cross our borders easily and marry white ppl to get lighter…..

    the publishers are feeding into the notion of “exotic” because if they put up the typical afghan: pashtun, tajik, uzbek, hazara … then there’s a chance they could look like too many things – and no one wants our globally-educated Western people to start being threatened by “white” “yellow” or “hapa” looking people (hapa – for lack of a better term).

    Better to keep the stereotype as everyone is “brown,” and only the japanese and chinese are “yellow,” only Anglos are “white” – that’s what’s so insulting about the cover.

    Its facilitated stereotypes likes these why people can’t comprehend that the middle east is quite diverse, from their asian black ppl to their asian white ppl – although they all share a common thread of having (mostly) a semetic stock.

    the same reason why people can’t comprehend that South Asians are quite diverse, with their asian black people, their asian white people, to yes, their asian “hapas” & “yellow” ppl – although they all share the common thread of having (mostly) an Indic stock.

    and finally its that very same stereotype why ppl can’t comprehend Central Asia (& yes, Afghanistan is central asian) is quite diverse, with their asian black, white, yellow, and hapas – although they all share the common thread of having (mostly) an Iranic stock.

    Its not about hating ppl based on their skin, but only showing the world 1/10th of your country’s potential and diversity – and the Western world ONLY allowing that 1/10th representation to exist.