Malalai Joya is a hero for our times, a young woman who refused to be silent, a young woman committed to making a difference in the world, no matter the cost.

Good Reads, October 2009

Malalai Joya book

A Woman Among Warlords:
The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice
by Malalai Joya
October 20th 2009
by Scribner Book Company
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN 1439132488 (ISBN13: 9781439132487)

Malalai Joya has been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan." At a constitutional assembly in Kabul in 2003, she stood up and denounced her country's powerful NATO-backed warlords. She was twenty-five years old. Two years later, she became the youngest person elected to Afghanistan's new Parliament. In 2007, she was suspended from Parliament for her persistent criticism of the warlords and drug barons and their cronies. She has survived four assassination attempts to date, is accompanied at all times by armed guards, and sleeps only in safe houses.

Often compared to democratic leaders such as Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, this extraordinary young woman was raised in the refugee camps of Iran and Pakistan. Inspired in part by her father's activism, Malalai became a teacher in secret girls' schools, holding classes in a series of basements. She hid her books under her burqa so the Taliban couldn't find them. She also helped establish a free medical clinic and orphanage in her impoverished home province of Farah. The endless wars of Afghanistan have created a generation of children without parents. Like so many others who have lost people they care about, Malalai lost one of her orphans when the girl's family members sold her into marriage.

While many have talked about the serious plight of women in Afghanistan, Malalai Joya takes us inside the country and shows us the desperate dayto-day situations these remarkable people face at every turn. She recounts some of the many acts of rebellion that are helping to change the country -- the women who bravely take to the streets in peaceful protest against their oppression; the men who step forward and claim "I am her mahram," so the fundamentalists won't punish a woman for walking alone; and the families that give their basements as classrooms for female students.

A controversial political figure in one of the most dangerous places on earth, Malalai Joya is a hero for our times, a young woman who refused to be silent, a young woman committed to making a difference in the world, no matter the cost.



Reviews by readers of this site

Jan 01, 2010 Nancy

What would you risk in order to have books, education, basic human rights?

Luckily, most of us will never have to ask ourselves that questions. In Afghanistan it's the constant question. Malaila Joya has risked her life and sacrificied any normalcy she might have had to fight for her country's freedom, actually it's very soul! I'm not sure I agree with Joya's assessment of every issue. While I greatly admire her quest for truth, at times she comes across as strident and unwilling to even consider the motives and opinions of others. She has a passion and the absolute certainty of her opinions that perhaps is necessary for her to to fight the good fight. I truly hope she survives, though I fear, her future is uncertain at best, to see her dream of a free Afghanistan come to pass. There is no question this is a provacative and eye opening look at both Afghanistand the our own foreign policy. I would definitely recommend this book if you want to better understand the issue of Afghanistan (and perhaps the entire middle east region)

Nov 05, 2009 Jane

I recently heard Joya interviewed on the radio and that is what prompted me to read this book. Figured it was about time that I learned a little bit more about Afghanistan from something other than filtered western news. Really, this is an incredible and inspiring story of one woman's courage and determination to stand up to the criminal and thuggish nature of those in power in Afghanistan. I am awed. She does not paint a pretty picture either of politics in her own country or of the presence/policies of the West. The writing was uneven at times. I thought the most effective and powerful points in the book were when she was telling her own story. In an attempt to help readers understand the many and complicated layers of the history and current situation of Afghanistan Joya goes off on some tangents. In the last 30 pages it felt more like a diatribe. While I understand her need to do this I felt like it took away from her story. All in all I'm very glad to have read this. Joya's passion to speak the truth is amazing and important and urgent.

Jan 14, 2010 Jukka

A Woman Among Warlords - Malalai Joya, This book is very good, and it represents a grass-roots voice of both people of Afghanistan and of free-thinking Islamic women.

There are three main parts or aspects to this book. A memoir of a child growing up in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, and being a refugee from that regime, and then the time after returning to Afghanistan when the Taliban come to power, secretly teaching school and organizing aid, all as a very young woman. It is also a memoir on the political life of someone who steps forward to represent everyday people during the current U.S. occupation, fighting the corrupt structure that the U.S. has created there. And then it is a political analysis of the way forward, with specific things that will bring Afghanistan forward.

Malalai Joya is an extremely brave person, someone who does what needs to be done, and does not count the personal cost. This is a voice not heard elsewhere, (at least commonly in the west) and so this is a very important book that must be read and it's wisdoms spread.

It is good to read criticism from the other side. She is critical of Obama's war making, and Bush's as well. Her view on Benizir Bhutto, again from the other side, is one i've not known before.

I had to reflect too, of the role of strong fathers who love their daughters, and recognize the value of education and free thought. I've read a few books like this lately and all involve the common element connecting this sort father in Islamic culture with the life of strong healthy women.

My one minor criticism is that perhaps the modern memoir has not aged enough to give the author perspective. What she did was right, but how you describe, and what detail you give is not always apparent when you are in the middle of the situation. That said i don't think there is time to waste, this is too important and needs to be said and understood now, there is blood on our hands.

Dec 31, 2009 Chez La

An amazing story. My husband an I are at opposites when it comes it the issue of afghanistan. I am making him read this book. After reading this book I want to become an activist. All through the book ( i read it in about 9 hours and still made dinner)I kept wondering "why won't she let it gooooooo." Yes people need to be brought before the wars commission for Crimes against Humanity, and yes when this country is solvent enough, these men will face punishment. But then I finally came up with it. She was born in April. Taurus' never forgive, never let an issue die, it's their way or the highway. I should know I'm one of them. Now I understand her. I hope she survives to see justice prevail.

Dec 15, 2009 Weavre

Absolutely incredible book. I highly recommend it to anyone who's trying to understand the confusing, often conflicting reports of what's happening in Afghanistan. Malalai Joya is just one voice, but her explanations make sense out of a great deal that seemed senseless (at least to me) before I read her book. Her writing is straightforward, simple, and direct--accessible to almost any reader. Reading this shifted my perspective on several details of what I think about the political/military situation in Afghanistan.

Nov 21, 2009 holly

An excellent read. I think we all owe it to ourselves and the world to go beyond mainstream media regarding current issues. This book was eye opening and gives a different perspective of the Afghan people. The strategy of the last several years has failed - Afghanistan is much worse off than before the occupation. It's very interesting that the majority of the Afghan people see us as enemies and want us out. It's very disturbing to learn that the actions of the US over the past few decades has put us in this position. And because we continue to support the warlords, it will go on for years to come. I could go on and on talking about how much I learned from this book and how it's really opened my eyes to think about what is going on.

Jan 23, 2010 Natalie

A great look into the history of Afghanistan and it's current situation. Malalai Joya is an inspiration to read; a young woman who is so brave and loves her country so much that she could not just sit by while corruption and violence took over. A good read if you're interested in learning about women's rights in Afghanistan.

Jan 21, 2010 Eileen

An eye opening story of a very strong woman. She is critical of any faction that is trying to help her government. She states no fear of dying in her qwest to cricize any and all factions that appear evil. The book does not flow easily, and there is no literature cited to support her cliams. A must read.

Jan 30, 2010 Sylvia

I admire the woman's courage as she works for truth and support for Afghan people, and especially women and children. Some of the book was repetitive or too dense. Writing style? --she needed more editing.

Jan 03, 2010 Kathy

Very interesting book with a less-well known version of what's going on in Afghanistan. I've definitely started following the news more closely...I don't think Malalai Joya is happy with the recent developments in her country, though. You can watch some fascinating clips on youtube which show her speeches. She is a very courageous young woman.

Oct 29, 2009 Katherine

This book was such a wonderful unique insight into knowing the people from Afghanistan - after hearing so many negative news from that country - it was inspiring. The first part of the book was definitely an easier flow and the second part was quite harder to read, but so powerful. I hope everyone gets a chance to read this book and see how inspiring and beautiful Afghan people are.