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Saima Wahab was born in Afghanistan but only lived there until she was six years old. By then, her father had been taken away by the KGB, so she and her family had to leave. They ended up in Pakistan, living with family, until she, her brother Khalid and her sister Najiba, in their teens, were sponsored by their uncles to move to the United States. In My Father’s Country is Saima’s memoir of her life growing up in Afghanistan and Pakistan, acclimating to life in the U.S. and then later returning to Afghanistan to work as an interpreter in an effort to bridge the gap between the U.S. soldiers and the Afghanistan citizens.
I really enjoyed learning more about the Afghan people and the relations between them and the U.S. soldiers who have been in their country for so many years. I was fascinated by Saima’s role in Afghanistan, and enjoyed learning about how she came to be the person she is today. When she was born, her father declared, “I promise that my daughter will prove she is better than many Pashtun sons, and will do more for her people than one hundred sons combined.” Reading this memoir, I felt that Saima has spent her life living up to this promise in her father’s honor.
This is a very easy-to-read memoir. It’s written in an easygoing manner, and I felt that Saima was being honest in her feelings and descriptions of events. I will say that it’s clear she is still conflicted in her own personal life, struggling to balance her Afghan roots with her American citizenship. She shares a couple examples of relationships that were casualties to this struggle.
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. I think it would make for an excellent book club selection, and a great choice for anyone who is interested in learning a bit more about Afghan culture and the U.S. presence there.