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Latifa was born into an educated middle-class Afghan family in Kabul in 1980. She dreamed of one day of becoming a journalist, she was interested in fashion, movies and friends. Her father was in the import/export business and her mother was a doctor. Then in September 1996, Taliban soldiers seized power in Kabul. From that moment, Latifa, just 16 years old became a prisoner in her own home. Her school was closed. Her mother was banned from working. The simplest and most basic freedoms - walking down the street, looking out a window - were no longer hers. She was now forced to wear a chadri. My Forbidden Face provides a poignant and highly personal account of life under the Taliban regime. With painful honesty and clarity Latifa describes the way she watched her world falling apart, in the name of a fanatical interpretation of a faith that she could not comprehend. Her voice captures a lost innocence, but also echoes her determination to live in freedom and hope. Earlier this year, Latifa and her parents escaped Afghanistan with the help of a French-based Afghan resistance group.
Virago Press Ltd
Publisher and industry reviews
A poignant account of the life of a teenage Afghani girl under the rule of the Taliban. Latifa's school was closed down, she was forced to wear a chadri and the simplest, most basic freedoms were denied to her.
UK Kirkus review
When Latifa was 16 years old, she was studying to be a journalist. Then, on 27 September 1996, her home town of Kabul fell to the Taliban. Her college was closed down and, like all women, Latifa was effectively imprisoned in her own home. Latifa and her family spent their forced isolation watching smuggled videos, painting the windows of the apartment black on the inside so the Taliban guards couldn't spot the flickering light of the screen. It was a claustrophobic, airless life, shut off from the outside world. Soon, the smallest details transfixed her: 'A crumb of bread on the table catches my interest; a bird in the sky fascinates me.' For four months she stayed inside the family flat. The only reason she eventually agreed to don a burqa and venture out was because she feared she was going insane. Her glimpses of the world beyond, through the holes in her headdress, are startling. She saw women wearing burqas stoned for the colour of their shoes - white. White is the colour of the Taliban flag, and to tread on it is a sign of disrespect. The only form of rebellion left to this teenager was to clandestinely watch Titanic, weeping over Leonardo DiCaprio's death amongst the ice floes. Latifa has been described as the Anne Frank of Afghanistan.But whereas Anne Frank kept a daily diary, this book is more a remembering of what happened from 1996 until she fled five years later. Although written in the present tense, it is not a day-by-day account, and often she is looking back, reconstructing events in a broader context than they would have appeared at the time. But it is difficult to judge this memoir in purely literary terms. Latifa's account might not make a great book, but it does make an enthralling, if horrifying, testimony to life under the Taliban regime. Review by Dea Birkett (Kirkus UK)
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