The Underground Girls of Kabul (Paperback)

In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan

By Jenny Nordberg

Broadway Books, 9780307952509, 384pp.

Publication Date: July 14, 2015

List Price: 16.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.


An investigative journalist uncovers a hidden custom that will transform your understanding of what it means to grow up as a girl

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as "dressed up like a boy") is a third kind of child--a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for the New York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom.

The Underground Girls of Kabul
is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents' attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults.

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America's longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

About the Author

JENNY NORDBERG is an award-winning journalist based in New York. A correspondent and columnist for Swedish national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, she has a long record of investigative reports for, among others, The New York Times, where she also contributed to a series that won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. In 2010, she was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Journalism for a television documentary on Afghan women. She is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Conversation Starters from

  1. Before reading Underground Girls of Kabul, what (if anything) did you know about Afghanistan? Was there anything in the book you found surprising about the country and its history?generic viagra price canada
  2. Do you think the practice of bacha posh is subversive, with the potential to change the strict gender culture of Afghanistan? Or do you see it as women capitulating to and reinforcing a system of segregation? Do people have the power to challenge Afghanistan’s patriarchal society in other ways?generic viagra price canada
  3. Does the practice of bacha posh make sense to you, or is it still entirely foreign? How would you explain why this happens?generic viagra price canada
  4. Disguise is a common strategy for coping with subjugation. Can you think of any actual, real-life historical or present-day parallels to bacha posh? What examples are there of people of pretending to be someone or something else in response to segregation or oppression?generic viagra price canada
  5. Many of the women in this book experience the limits of female freedom, even if they have had some success. Is there a limit to what most women can achieve, even in our own society today? Why is that?generic viagra price canada
  6. Did you ever wonder how things would have been different had you been born a child of the other gender? Did you ever wish that you could be a different gender, even if only to deal with a particular circumstance?generic viagra price canada
  7. In what way were you treated like a boy or a girl, respectively, when you were a child? Were you told that there were things you absolutely couldn’t do because of your gender? Do you see a future where gender roles will be less strictly defined? What would that future offer us?generic viagra price canada
  8. Do you agree with the author’s conclusion that women’s rights are essential to human rights and to building peaceful civilizations? Why or why not?generic viagra price canada
  9. What would you tell the author or any of these women? They would love to hear from you. We invite you to continue the conversation on or to connect with Jenny Nordberg on Twitter: @nordbergj.generic viagra price canada