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Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes behind the Veil | [Deborah Rodriguez, Kristin Ohlson]

Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes behind the Veil

Most Westerners working in Afghanistan spend their time tucked inside a military compound or embassy. Not Deborah Rodriguez. Here, she tells the story of the beauty school she founded in the middle of Kabul and of the vibrant women who were her students. When Rodriguez opened the Kabul Beauty School, she not only empowered her students with a new sense of autonomy but also made some of the closest friends of her life.
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Publisher's Summary

Most Westerners working in Afghanistan spend their time tucked inside a military compound or embassy. Not Deborah Rodriguez. Here, she tells the story of the beauty school she founded in the middle of Kabul and of the vibrant women who were her students.

When Rodriguez opened the Kabul Beauty School, she not only empowered her students with a new sense of autonomy but also made some of the closest friends of her life. Woven through the book are the stories of her students: the newlywed who must fake her virginity; the 12-year-old sold into marriage to pay her family's debts; and a woman who pursues her training despite her Taliban husband's constant beatings. They all bring their stories to the beauty school, where, along with Rodriguez herself, they learn the art of perms, friendship, and freedom.

©2007 Deborah Rodriguez-Turner; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A terrific opening chapter - colorful, suspenseful, funny - ushers readers into the curious closed world of Afghan women." (Publishers Weekly)
"A lively narrative of the author's experiences reacquainting Afghan women with skills the mullahs had denied them....Terrifically readable, and rich in personal stories." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (387 )
5 star
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4.0 (121 )
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4.3 (118 )
5 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Becky Barnhart, Missouri United States 06-14-07
    Becky Barnhart, Missouri United States 06-14-07 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thumbs down"

    I could have loved this story. I am fascinated by Afghani culture and share the author's compassion for the women there, but I felt like she spent too much time boo-hooing over her own circumstances. She would be feeling homesick or frustrated and the Afghani women (who have bigger problems than hers, such as physical/emotional abuse in their marriages) would either ignore her silliness, or comfort her.

    The truth is, Debbie never went "behind the veil" as the title suggests. Sure, she wore traditional Afghani garb, but throughout the book, she insists on retaining her brash American ways, without taking much away from Afghani culture.

    Most of the time I listened to this audiobook, I felt there was some major piece of it that was just missing; some common thread to tie together all the little "episodes" (that's how she structures it: one or two Afghani women, describe their problem, weep over it, and move on). Maybe I missed the point, but this wasn't what I was expecting.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    12-13-07
    12-13-07 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Kabul's Gossip Central"

    While I enjoyed listening to this book, I felt like I couldn't entirely trust the writer. I wasn't sure what her motives were for going to Kabul or for marrying an Afghani man (or for leaving half-grown children back in the states, for that matter).

    The writer's self-centred approach got in the way of the characters because each character was seen through a naive American lens that limited and flattened the residents of Kabul to stereotypical roles of warlords or former mujahadeen, victims of the Taliban ot helpless pawns in familial manoevering. Each episode she describes casts herself as the central American rescuer - facing up to kidnapping nasty neighbours, winning over unresponsive in-laws, saving the honour of not-so-virginal brides.

    Overall, it isn't a substantial book - rather like the light-hearted (or occasionally mean-spirited) gossip of beauty salons everywhere.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States 11-12-11
    Mark Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States 11-12-11 Member Since 2005
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    "Unexpected Gem"

    This story is an example of an old saying, "To do an ordinary thing extraordinarily well brings success." Who would think a the art of hairdressing would bridge the gap between cultures?

    The story is compelling and well written, an average good hearted woman applies her talents and does good in a part of the world constantly berated by the mass produced news media.

    It is a pleasure to experience her journey through this book. It is well narrated and enjoyable.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caren Basking Ridge, NJ, United States 05-26-08
    Caren Basking Ridge, NJ, United States 05-26-08 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Enjoyed it!"

    I really enjoyed this audiobook. I liked the narrator and acutallyfelt like she was the author and was talking to me. I listen in the car and when I walk for excercise. I couldn't wait to get in the car or excercise so I could here more. I would love to know what happens next.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shannon Chicago, IL, United States 02-21-08
    Shannon Chicago, IL, United States 02-21-08 Member Since 2005
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    "An intriguing view of a place in the news"

    I loved the descriptions of the Afghan women, their hardships and daily life. I also found the protagonist quite interesting, in a good-hearted but flaky way. She is obviously very kind and courageous, but she also seems to have poor planning skills, a reckless nature and little sense that her actions could put other women at risk, sometimes of death. There are many unanswered questions (why is Debbie so carefree about abandoning her sons for one) and except for friendships and language skills, Debbie doesn't seem to have learned much from her adventure. Still, the story moves quickly, some of the Afghan women are unforgettable, and it does seem that Debbie helped bring hope to a group of women who really needed it.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    AKR Southern California 04-25-07
    AKR Southern California 04-25-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Enlightening"

    While disturbing on one level (the treatment of women in Kabul), this book, a true story, illustrates the power of one person's devotion to
    an idea (start a beauty school) and the power that it's culmination has on the participants. Also, the reader is really excellent, just perfect for this kind of story. Usually I enjoy Robert B Parker, Vince Flynn and John Sandford for their heroes but it is refreshing to read about a real life female hero.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 04-19-09
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 04-19-09 Member Since 2005

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "dissapointed"

    I enjoyed the beginning of this book and the author seemed altruistic in her desire to help Afghan women. However, as the story progressed it seemed like she was just bored and having an "adventure" that included becoming the second wife of a man she could hardly communicate with after leaving her teenaged kids in the usa. Then she was upsest that his first wife became pregnant. What was she thinking? She lost credibility with me at that point. There are many other more credible books to read on the subject.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Pottstown, PA, USA 03-18-08
    Jennifer Pottstown, PA, USA 03-18-08
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    "beautiful"

    "Kabul Beauty School" was truly a beautiful book. After reading this, I just wanted to get out there and do something with purpose.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 10-01-08
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 10-01-08 Member Since 2007

    trying to see the world with my ears

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Overall
    "Wrong title"

    A title usually reflects the main idea of a work - this ought to have been called "Debi's Adventures in Afghanistan" or "The Un-Quiet American." At least the author admits her lack of sensitivity to Afghan culture though most of her sojourn.

    I would have liked to learn more about the NGO "Beauty Without Borders" and less of Debi's personal life, but it was her memoir so she gets to choose. As it is a memoir, we need to take her view of the action with a grain of salt, I think. I in no way want to excuse the brutality of the Afghan men she describes (and at least she shows us that American men can be brutes, too, and Christianity too can to be used to try to keep women in abusive situations) - but since she talks about the effects of post tramautic stress on the women, let's admit it affected the Afghan men too.

    The reader won't learn much about authentic Islam and might come away with the impression that most Afghans appreciated getting what little remained of their infrastruture destroyed in retaliation for 9/11. IF Osama had been hiding in Afghanistan, I'm sure Debi would have had more success in tracking him down on her way to Kabul than did all those bombs. If this is to be your first read about Afghanistan, better download more than this memoir.

    That said, this is an easy listen, and might appeal to some who don't like the darker novels or nonfiction on the subject. And good for Debi for doing more than I ever did to save the world!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marilyn CHERRY HILL, NJ, United States 11-22-11
    Marilyn CHERRY HILL, NJ, United States 11-22-11
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    "Interesting subject matter."

    I am interested in the culture of Afghanistan since we are at war in their country. This book provided a nice inside view of the people, particularly the women. I do recommend this book, however the author includes personal information about herself that I found uninteresting and boring. That was my reason for giving it 4* instead of 5. Another book on the same subject is The Bookseller of Kabul, which I liked more.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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