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A People Book of the Week & a Kirkus Best Nonfiction of the Year An exquisite and inspiring memoir about one mother’s unimaginable choice in the face of oppression and abuse in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions A People Book of the Week & a Kirkus Best Nonfiction of the Year An exquisite and inspiring memoir about one mother’s unimaginable choice in the face of oppression and abuse in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions. With the city and the military on edge, it was not uncommon for an armed soldier to point his gun at the pregnant woman’s bulging stomach, terrified that she was hiding a bomb. Frightened and in pain, she was once forced to make her way on foot. Propelled by the love she held for her soon-to-be-born child, Homeira walked through blood and wreckage to reach the hospital doors. But the joy of her beautiful son’s birth was soon overshadowed by other dangers that would threaten her life. No ordinary Afghan woman, Homeira refused to cower under the strictures of a misogynistic social order. Defying the law, she risked her freedom to teach children reading and writing and fought for women’s rights in her theocratic and patriarchal society. Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to a son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story—and that of Afghan women—Homeira challenges you to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival. Her story asks you to consider the lengths you would go to protect yourself, your family, and your dignity.


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A People Book of the Week & a Kirkus Best Nonfiction of the Year An exquisite and inspiring memoir about one mother’s unimaginable choice in the face of oppression and abuse in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions A People Book of the Week & a Kirkus Best Nonfiction of the Year An exquisite and inspiring memoir about one mother’s unimaginable choice in the face of oppression and abuse in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions. With the city and the military on edge, it was not uncommon for an armed soldier to point his gun at the pregnant woman’s bulging stomach, terrified that she was hiding a bomb. Frightened and in pain, she was once forced to make her way on foot. Propelled by the love she held for her soon-to-be-born child, Homeira walked through blood and wreckage to reach the hospital doors. But the joy of her beautiful son’s birth was soon overshadowed by other dangers that would threaten her life. No ordinary Afghan woman, Homeira refused to cower under the strictures of a misogynistic social order. Defying the law, she risked her freedom to teach children reading and writing and fought for women’s rights in her theocratic and patriarchal society. Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to a son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story—and that of Afghan women—Homeira challenges you to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival. Her story asks you to consider the lengths you would go to protect yourself, your family, and your dignity.

30 review for Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother's Letter to Her Son

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    The more I think about this book and I have been thinking about it since I finished reading it, I have to change my rating. It deserves 5 stars. *********************************************** As a young girl, growing up in Afghanistan, Homeira Qaderi received supportive and wise advice from her father : “By reading more novels, Homeira , you will become more creative. You will know more people and you will experience many different lives.” And from her mother : “They have written about their own The more I think about this book and I have been thinking about it since I finished reading it, I have to change my rating. It deserves 5 stars. *********************************************** As a young girl, growing up in Afghanistan, Homeira Qaderi received supportive and wise advice from her father : “By reading more novels, Homeira , you will become more creative. You will know more people and you will experience many different lives.” And from her mother : “They have written about their own lives. You must write about you. “ This inspiring memoir reflects so beautifully that she heeded their advice. The narratives of her life experiences are interspersed with letters to her son who she had to leave behind in Afghanistan when she leaves for the US. A precocious rebel as a child, inquisitive even in the hellishness of her experiences : “ I can’t remember a time when my homeland was not at war. My childhood began with fighter-jet attacks, bombs falling from the sky, and me trying to count invisible bullets. War and hunger, those are my earliest memories.” After the Russians, the Taliban came and closed all schools for girls and women were not allowed to leave their homes. Her bold mother recommended that she teach young girls in their home and at thirteen years old, she does, and then later holding classes in the mosque for both boys and girls under the guise of teaching them the Koran. They learned, they read and yes, even danced in the mosque. Books were banned and her father who revered books and learning, buried books in a chest in their yard. He dug them up and hid them in the cellar when Homeira read her family the first story she wrote so she could read. This girl who wrote could not publish stories under her own name, but when one appeared, her whole family was in danger. Today she is a writer, a professor and advises the Afghan government on issue of equality for women. When she marries, she became the “ property” of her husband. They moved to Iran and in Tehran, her life changes. She becomes educated and blossoms into the woman she hoped to be, but things took a turn when they returned to Afghanistan. “ Divorce, divorce, divorce, “ in a text from her husband. According to their culture, if a husband says it three times it makes their marriage “ null and void.” Heartbreakingly, her son now belonged only to his father. Her telling of her life growing up and as an adult is inspiring, enlightening, hopeful, yet heartbreaking. Her letters to her son are filled with anguish, grief, regret and most of all love. “Do not believe them! I haven’t died. I am living a life of exile, in a place that has its own beauty, its own laws, and its own problems. But to my eternal pain, it does not have the most important element of my being, of my soul. It does not have you.” “How could a mother just walk away and leave her child behind? It was never my wish.” It’s hard to imagine sometimes a life so very different from our own, making me wonder what decisions I may have made under the same circumstances, how I would have survived under the same conditions and cultural norms. Homeira Qaderi in her powerful memoir affords us the opportunity for some understanding. Well written and highly recommended. An NPR interview with the author: https://www.npr.org/2020/11/28/939629... I received a copy of this book from Harper through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce

    This book was just the perfect read for those of us who think our lives have been difficult as women. In it, Homeira Quderi vividly relates what life was like for a young girl growing into adulthood under Taliban rule. Most of us are aware of the indignities done to girls by the Taliban, forbidden to learn, to go outside without the company of a man, to forever be covered from head to toe with the consequences of not following the rules. The consequences were at best a severe beating and at worst This book was just the perfect read for those of us who think our lives have been difficult as women. In it, Homeira Quderi vividly relates what life was like for a young girl growing into adulthood under Taliban rule. Most of us are aware of the indignities done to girls by the Taliban, forbidden to learn, to go outside without the company of a man, to forever be covered from head to toe with the consequences of not following the rules. The consequences were at best a severe beating and at worst beheading. Homeira is a revolutionary who believes that all children need to be educated so she secretly runs a small school in a mosque. Ever vigilant to the dangers of both what she is doing, not only to herself but to the children, she allows them to dance, another thing forbidden, and learn to write and read. There are many close calls but miraculously she is never caught and eventually marries after being somewhat betrothed to a Taliban chieftain. Moving to Iran, she finds she is able to go to school. and eventually earns her PhD. However, her marriage falls apart as her husband decides he likes the ways of the Taliban, the couple move back to Afghanistan. He divorces her and takes her son and the book contains both poignant and emotional letters to a son she has not seen in years. Sad and mournful, Dancing in the Mosque makes the reader ever so grateful to live in a free country where women can be anything.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Standeven

    This is the inspiring story of a very courageous young girl growing into a woman in Afghanistan. The book is to bear witness to the changes happening in her country, and on a more personal level to explain to her son (and to the reader) why she had to escape and leave him behind. “Losing you was the most severe pain I have ever suffered and I know you must be very, very angry. But I felt I had to make a choice, not just for myself, but also for my country and, ultimately, for you. I don’t wan This is the inspiring story of a very courageous young girl growing into a woman in Afghanistan. The book is to bear witness to the changes happening in her country, and on a more personal level to explain to her son (and to the reader) why she had to escape and leave him behind. “Losing you was the most severe pain I have ever suffered and I know you must be very, very angry. But I felt I had to make a choice, not just for myself, but also for my country and, ultimately, for you. I don’t want either of us to belong to a society that degrades women the way the Afghan society does. You, my son, are a new generation and it is my deepest hope that by the time you grow up, things will have changed—that you will become an instrument of that change.” She tells of her childhood, moving from the relative ‘safety’ of war-torn Herat under the Russian occupation, through the Mujahadeen, the Taliban and then ISIS. At the start of the book, the major dangers were exploding bombs and bullets, male relatives being imprisoned and tortured – but many children (including girls) still had access to an education. With the chaos of Mujahadeen, everyone was at risk, and the restrictions on girls and women began to tighten. By the time the Taliban are in charge, females could no longer leave their homes without a husband or male relative in attendance, they must wear a burka in public and all schooling for females is banned. For Homeira – who has always been a rebel and has always railed against the preferential treatment shown to her younger brother – this ruling needs to be thwarted. She loves education – needs education. And so, aged merely thirteen, she sets up a secret part-time school in a make-shift mosque. Initially it is for the local young girls – but soon refugee children (including some young boys) join in. The title refers to an incident where the children are happy and excited, and start to dance – and come so very close to being discovered by strict Taliban soldiers. That would have involved the destruction of the school, and almost certainly executions – or worse. All too soon, it is time for Homeira to marry. It is not something that the wife-to-be – nor her family – have any say in. Once a Talib man chooses a female for his first (or second, third or fourth) wife – the matter is settled. “The nekah matrimonial ceremony is the recitation of some verses in Arabic by a maulawi that, in an instant, allows a total stranger to become your master.” Homeira manages to avoid marriage for longer than most of her friends, but eventually a particularly cruel Talib leader claims her. Thankfully, he dies in battle before the ceremony. The next marriage does takes place – and your heart sinks along with the hearts of Homiera and her family. But then the wonderful twist. Her new husband takes her straight to Iran so that he can go to university there. And Homeira gets the opportunity to do the same. In the West, Iran is perpetually demonised, but to Homeira it was a beacon of hope – somewhere she could become the woman she wanted to be: “In Afghanistan, a good woman was defined as a good mother. In Iran, a good woman could be an independent and educated woman.” She is able to put off motherhood for years to focus on her education and writing career. Unfortunately, her husband (with whom she had fallen in love) eventually decides to return to Afghanistan – taking her with him, and she is pressured into having a child. She tries to continue her career in Afghanistan, but when her husband informs her that he is taking a second wife, it is the final straw: “It takes years and generations for men to accept strong women. And in the end, he felt more accountable to society than to me.” I found the family dynamics very interesting. Homeira is very influenced by her father and grandfather, who do their best to support and encourage her. Her grandfather is widely read, and hides his many works of Russian literature when the Taliban come. Her mother is a somewhat neutral figure, but her grandmother always just wants Homeira to conform – like a good woman should. “Pain and grief adorn a woman,” she said. “You should accept it for your own comfort. No woman’s life can be compared to a man’s. I swear that your eyes and ears will get used to the second wife. Don’t be afraid. It is difficult for all women, but when it happens, they accept it.” Homeira wants the men to change – but I cannot help but believe, that until the women change – nothing will. Education is a start, but while there continues to be acceptance of the woman’s submissive and second-class role, women will not be free. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to everyone. I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Dancing In The Mosque is an incredible memoir of perseverance and emotional strength. Homeira Qaderi has given up absolutely everything, including her own very young son, in order to fight for Afghan women's rights and, through reading this searingly personal memoir, I feel I understand a little of what this woman has been through and what drives her. The book is written as a chronological memoir, with chapters interspersed with Qaderi's inte See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits Dancing In The Mosque is an incredible memoir of perseverance and emotional strength. Homeira Qaderi has given up absolutely everything, including her own very young son, in order to fight for Afghan women's rights and, through reading this searingly personal memoir, I feel I understand a little of what this woman has been through and what drives her. The book is written as a chronological memoir, with chapters interspersed with Qaderi's intensely poignant letter to her son, Siawash, who remained with her husband in Afghanistan. Afghan law doesn't recognise women's rights to even see their children if the father doesn't wish it and, despite long drawn-out legal proceedings, mother and son have been kept apart for years. Siawash has even been told his mother died. Qaderi portrays Afghan life over several decades from Russian to Taliban oppression, showing how the Afghan people themselves have been pushed from pillar to post for years without any opportunity to determine their own lives. Swapping one set of men with guns for another set and then another. I cannot imagine the mental strength it would take to set oneself against a regime as Qaderi did. Despite my disagreeing with her grandmother's admonishments to knuckle down and accept patriarchal customs regardless of their unfairness, I could see why the older woman could think this way. She could stomach the repression and was, at least, alive to tell the tale. Qaderi took the opposite approach though, choosing as a teenager to teach literacy to refugee girls in direct defiance to Taliban edicts. She is an inspirational woman whose memoir I highly recommend to women everywhere.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Stansel

    Dancing in the Mosque is the powerful memoir of a woman growing up in Afghanistan both during Russian and then Taliban control. Her story is broken up as messages to the son taken from her when her husband divorced her. To a woman of similar age who had the luck of being born in a place where women are given equality, it was a painful reminder of the horrors women are faced with around the world. Yet the story is filled with hope and love as well, from her family and her determination to stand u Dancing in the Mosque is the powerful memoir of a woman growing up in Afghanistan both during Russian and then Taliban control. Her story is broken up as messages to the son taken from her when her husband divorced her. To a woman of similar age who had the luck of being born in a place where women are given equality, it was a painful reminder of the horrors women are faced with around the world. Yet the story is filled with hope and love as well, from her family and her determination to stand up for herself, those who were lost and those who come after her. Full disclosure- i received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shankar Singh

    “𝙄𝙩 𝙩𝙤𝙤𝙠 𝙢𝙚 𝙮𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙩𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙗 𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙗𝙚 𝙢𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙮 𝙖 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣’𝙨 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚—𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙜𝙖𝙧𝙗 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙜𝙚𝙖𝙧. 𝙄𝙩 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙮𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨 𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠 𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙗𝙖𝙣–𝙙𝙤𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙗𝙖𝙣 𝙧𝙪𝙡𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝘼𝙛𝙜𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣, 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙗𝙖𝙣𝙞 𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙙-𝙨𝙚𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙚𝙡𝙡—𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙣 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙞𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙣.” Dancing in the Mosque is a heart-wrenching memoir which the author, Homeira Qaderi, dedicated to her son who she was forced to leave behind in Afghanistan. She reflects on her own life and includ “𝙄𝙩 𝙩𝙤𝙤𝙠 𝙢𝙚 𝙮𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙪𝙣𝙙𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙩𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙖 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙗 𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙗𝙚 𝙢𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙪𝙧𝙚𝙙 𝙗𝙮 𝙖 𝙥𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙤𝙣’𝙨 𝙤𝙪𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙖𝙥𝙥𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚—𝙝𝙞𝙨 𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙜𝙖𝙧𝙗 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙜𝙚𝙖𝙧. 𝙄𝙩 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝙮𝙚𝙖𝙧𝙨 𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙘𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙡𝙖𝙘𝙠 𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙗𝙖𝙣–𝙙𝙤𝙣𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙗𝙖𝙣 𝙧𝙪𝙡𝙚𝙙 𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝘼𝙛𝙜𝙝𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙣, 𝙗𝙪𝙩 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙏𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙗𝙖𝙣𝙞 𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙙-𝙨𝙚𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙫𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙬𝙚𝙡𝙡—𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙬𝙤𝙢𝙚𝙣 𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙮 𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙞𝙩 𝙘𝙖𝙣.” Dancing in the Mosque is a heart-wrenching memoir which the author, Homeira Qaderi, dedicated to her son who she was forced to leave behind in Afghanistan. She reflects on her own life and includes a series of letters that she wrote for her son, but knows he will never receive. She portrays her life several decades moving from a war-torn Herat under Russian invasion to, through Mujahideen in civil war, the Taliban and then finally the ISIS. She recounted her past as she refused to cower under the strictures of a misogynistic social order. She told how Islam was turned into an instrument of retribution, into a stone with which to strike people, especially women, under Taliban rule. As a defiance to her lost freedom she started to teach children and risked her own life to learn to read and write. Until one day she’s forced to marry a Herati man at age of 17, to save her from being taken by a Talibani commander who wanted to marry her. This is not a light-hearted book. Her letters to her son are filled with anguish, grief, regret and most of all love. It is an intimate, personal, and riveting chronicle of one defiant girl’s coming of age in a war-torn Afghanistan. Well written and highly recommended.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Pamela

    What happens when your world and life are invaded by the Taliban, beautifully written, heartbreaking.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    This is a beautifully written heartbreaking and hopeful love letter to the son Qaderi was forced to leave behind in Afghanistan. After living through the Russian occupation of her country, she was then forced to deal with the Taliban, which oppressed women more than any other regime. Qaderi, however, not only read against the law, she also taught others to read, including one who taught her to dance. Her marriage at 17 seemed good, especially while the couple was living in Tehran. Unfortunately, This is a beautifully written heartbreaking and hopeful love letter to the son Qaderi was forced to leave behind in Afghanistan. After living through the Russian occupation of her country, she was then forced to deal with the Taliban, which oppressed women more than any other regime. Qaderi, however, not only read against the law, she also taught others to read, including one who taught her to dance. Her marriage at 17 seemed good, especially while the couple was living in Tehran. Unfortunately, however, they returned to Kabul where he announced his intent to take a second wife. Her objection lead him to divorce her and, under the law, take their young son. Qaderi eventually makes her way to the US, where she continues to hope for a reunion. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. This is so emotional and yet restrained- it's thoughtful and informative. It will stick with you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Layburn

    Homeira Qaderi has lived such a heartbreaking and inspiring life, and her memoir is as moving and thought provoking as you would expect from such an exceptional woman. Dancing in the Mosque is a memoir- telling of Qaderi's childhood living in Afghanistan while it was under Russian occupation, then while it was struck with civil war, and finally while it was under the control of the Taliban. Readers will learn how passionate she has always been about women's rights, and the ways she has put her l Homeira Qaderi has lived such a heartbreaking and inspiring life, and her memoir is as moving and thought provoking as you would expect from such an exceptional woman. Dancing in the Mosque is a memoir- telling of Qaderi's childhood living in Afghanistan while it was under Russian occupation, then while it was struck with civil war, and finally while it was under the control of the Taliban. Readers will learn how passionate she has always been about women's rights, and the ways she has put her life at risk to speak up, act out, and write about the norms that she considered unacceptable- especially the restrictive role that society tells her that females were meant to take on. But this book is not just a memoir of her formative years. It is also a heartfelt attempt to reach out to her son, whom she hasn't seen since he was a toddler, when her husband forced her to choose between her son and everything that makes her, her. She will never give up on her attempts to connect with her son, but life has taught her that her words are her strongest weapon, and she will use them. This ARC was obtained through Netgalley, with thanks to Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Chassen

    I really enjoyed this memoir for its raw truth. It wasn't trying to make you feel anything besides the authentic experience of being a woman in that world. There were moments that felt like triumph and ones that left me devastated. And yet, throughout the whole book you had these letters, which at first I thought were journal entries. So Homeira is telling us stories from two different times and periods in her life, but she's also letting you, the reader, know - she's ok. I will be recommending t I really enjoyed this memoir for its raw truth. It wasn't trying to make you feel anything besides the authentic experience of being a woman in that world. There were moments that felt like triumph and ones that left me devastated. And yet, throughout the whole book you had these letters, which at first I thought were journal entries. So Homeira is telling us stories from two different times and periods in her life, but she's also letting you, the reader, know - she's ok. I will be recommending this book to friends. It' so important that we explore lives that we will never live, shoes that we will never wear, and homes that will never be our own. This is, absolutely rr

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    “Mothering in Afghanistan amounts to running along the sharp edge of a sword.” With this understanding, Homeira Qaderi concludes her memoir, a long, beautiful letter to the son she left in Afghanistan 958 days ago. To arrive at this conclusion, she shows the story of her life as a girl and then as a married woman. Her grandmother, Nanah-jan, believed that one of the most difficult tasks the Almighty can assign is being an impetuous, strong-willed, intelligent girl with the fate of birth in Herat “Mothering in Afghanistan amounts to running along the sharp edge of a sword.” With this understanding, Homeira Qaderi concludes her memoir, a long, beautiful letter to the son she left in Afghanistan 958 days ago. To arrive at this conclusion, she shows the story of her life as a girl and then as a married woman. Her grandmother, Nanah-jan, believed that one of the most difficult tasks the Almighty can assign is being an impetuous, strong-willed, intelligent girl with the fate of birth in Herat, a city in northwestern Afghanistan. Qaderi begins DANCING IN THE MOSQUE with a fanciful tale in which her brother has been rewarded for his curiosity with the gift of a jinni. Upon his demand, the jinni presents him with a black steed. Qaderi laments that she was not gifted with either a jinni or a black steed for her questions and determination. Instead, she listened to stories of monsters, wild horrible monsters that were to be her punishment for laughing out loud, wearing short skirts and arguing with her grandmother. Qaderi saw early and often the brutal disparity between the sexes as evidenced in her family, her town and her nation. How Qaderi went from being “a chick commander” leading a group of naked teenage girls in a bathhouse, one of the few safe places females could meet without the Taliban’s cruel interference, to becoming an exiled Afghani woman transplanted to California is told in short vignettes. Each of these pieces ends with a part of her letter to her son, Siawash. She tells him she is not dead. She tells him she loved his father very much for many years. She tells him she still wakes up during the night, at what is no longer his feeding hour, but still she awakens, fearful that she has missed it. She tells him again she is not dead. In the chapter “Red Shoes,” Qaderi remembers a night during an intense period of fierce fighting and stuttering machine guns. One of the neighborhood kids, Mohammad, who was younger by a few years, had been begging to wear a pair of Qaderi’s glittery red slippers with sharp heels. Of course, he was shamed. Those shoes were meant for girls, and he had been told no. During the worst of the battle raging outside their home, her grandfather, Baba-jan, came to the living room from a nap. “Where is Mohammad?” They rushed to the window and there, spinning gracefully among the invisible bullets, danced Mohammad with the red shoes. As we learn later in that chapter (it is quite a surprise), his fate underscores the second-class status of women. Qaderi does not reveal the specifics of that night to Siawash, but she does tell him about another frightening time. She learned from the American television news of an explosion across the street from a kindergarten in Kabal. Believing it to be his school, she made phone calls to find out if he was okay; she saw pictures of children but did not think she would even recognize him so many years later. When she woke up her brother at 6am his time, he told her that Siawash was safe. But then he turned on her and berated her for making the choice to leave; he was unsympathetic and compared a woman in Afghanistan to being in quicksand. The more you struggle, the more tightly you are trapped. Each memory from her childhood to the final days when she determines that she must leave Kabal is built on mothers, aunts, grandmothers, girlfriends and women she sees on the street. Refugees from Ghor Province who traveled to escape the war settled across the river from her home. Their tents were silent and dark at night as music was forbidden, but she could hear the lullabies, sweet sincere melodies of mothers comforting their children. Mother. Her son’s first word was “Mothe,” not even the complete word; her heart filled each time she heard it. Mother. She had not wanted children early in her marriage as she had seen too many times how Afghani culture disregards women; once a mother, she felt she would be reduced to being just that. After the birth of her son, however, she learned that motherhood is just another form of womanhood. Because of Afghani law and the overpowering culture of relegating women to second-class status, Qaderi’s life was about to change in a way that she could not condone. She was forced into the impossible choice of losing herself or losing her son. Reading the book’s final sentence is an excellent place to begin. Privileged American women will grieve with her and still celebrate her bravery. Qaderi acknowledges her translators, Dr. Zaman Stanizai and Vanisa Saffari, and their extraordinary skill at crisscrossing two languages as well as two cultures. To this reader, her voice feels seamless and authentic. Reviewed by Jane Krebs

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elite Group

    Utterly brilliant – Quite outstanding. A must-read! I must start with this quote – it’s what Homeira’s grandmother told her more than once; “My grandmother believed that one of the most difficult tasks that the Almighty can assign anyone is being a girl in Afghanistan.” She would have said it in exasperation trying to control her granddaughter’s extraordinarily strong, enthusiastic, feisty nature – after all – Afghan women are no more than chattels, nobodies. We follow Homeira’s life from her bir Utterly brilliant – Quite outstanding. A must-read! I must start with this quote – it’s what Homeira’s grandmother told her more than once; “My grandmother believed that one of the most difficult tasks that the Almighty can assign anyone is being a girl in Afghanistan.” She would have said it in exasperation trying to control her granddaughter’s extraordinarily strong, enthusiastic, feisty nature – after all – Afghan women are no more than chattels, nobodies. We follow Homeira’s life from her birth into a huge family living in one house, Her grandparents, their four daughters and two sons, her mother, and siblings. They had mulberry trees and red and green grapes on their plot of land, spaces where she and her brother could play when there was a lull when bombs and mortar weren’t keeping them in hiding during the Russian invasion. The memoir, written to her son, taken from her at an early age, sees her survive the Russian invasion, the Taliban’s very harsh take-over of Herat and her marriage and the freedom she found in Iran. Possibly one of the most extraordinary memoirs I’ve ever had the privilege to read. “Meeting” Homeira and listening to her narration of this often-harrowing life changed my perception of how lucky I am to have the freedom and be accepted as a woman. I wish I could say that when the West arrived with thousands of troops in Afghanistan that they were able to rescue and change the lives of women. Allow them the freedom of education, even the chance to attend university. However, by withdrawing, the old rules returned, and women are still treated as if “one of the most difficult tasks that the Almighty can assign anyone is being a girl in Afghanistan.” Thank you, Homeira. Thank you for sharing your life with us. Thank you for opening my eyes to the conditions that still prevail in Afghanistan. May millions find this memoir and may their eyes also be opened – maybe we can start a peaceful revolution changing the life of one girl at a time. Rony Elite Reviewing Group received a copy of the book to review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Boy Ertanto

    "I always have and always will want to be a mother for you, but I also need to remain Homeira for myself. I could not trade my name for a number; I could not sacrifice my freedom or my dignity. I could not become just another humiliated woman, banished to the suppossed sanctuary of our home. I cannot die under a blanket as an angry, pitiful desolate woman; I am trying to save myself and, by doing that, perhaps save other women as well." - Homeira Qader- At the utter termination of the day, we red "I always have and always will want to be a mother for you, but I also need to remain Homeira for myself. I could not trade my name for a number; I could not sacrifice my freedom or my dignity. I could not become just another humiliated woman, banished to the suppossed sanctuary of our home. I cannot die under a blanket as an angry, pitiful desolate woman; I am trying to save myself and, by doing that, perhaps save other women as well." - Homeira Qader- At the utter termination of the day, we redefine our search for a dint of meaning. Homeira suggests that being a mother has bestowed her a revelation toward a new facet of motherhood metamorphosis. Her body, her mind, and her heart are the melting pot of predicaments, intellectual yearnings, covered scars, unaccepting homelands, and perpetual longing for her significance, both as a woman and as a human. To have perused this book is to witness and accept the multi-faceted block of struggle. It is inexplicable to have seen Homeira as only a loving mother, a hopeful voice for her people, a disillusioned person for her society, and a myriad of terms applicable to her existence. To look her is to understand that her identity--and our identitiy as humans--is never "either", it is always "neither". We remain standing at the end of what seems to be unending tracks, yet what defines us as a person always progesses. We are standing in a liminal space which does not induce us to conform to either one of the choices. We are neither of the choices. We are always redefining and never redefined.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    Wow. What an inspirational memoir! Equally heartbreaking and inspirational. As a mother my heart broke hearing how she was forced to leave her children behind when her husband divorced her. Part of the memoir is letters she writes to her son trying to explain why she had to leave him behind. Living in a country like Afghanistan where women have so few rights, she fought against the restrictions from a young age (teaching young refugee children in secret). She also was able to get a PhD in litera Wow. What an inspirational memoir! Equally heartbreaking and inspirational. As a mother my heart broke hearing how she was forced to leave her children behind when her husband divorced her. Part of the memoir is letters she writes to her son trying to explain why she had to leave him behind. Living in a country like Afghanistan where women have so few rights, she fought against the restrictions from a young age (teaching young refugee children in secret). She also was able to get a PhD in literature when her husband was supportive of her furthering her education and working outside the home. Eventually she moves to America to pursue additional writing and learning opportunities and has never stopped fighting for the rights of Afghan women. Very inspirational, along the lines of Malala and Reading Lolita in Tehran.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deja

    “My grandmother believed that one of the most difficult tasks that the Almighty can assign anyone is being a girl in Afghanistan.” This is the heartbreaking and inspiring story of Homeira Qaderi. She grows up in Afghanistan, where first the Russians come to war and later the Taliban is in power. She has always been brave and takes a lot of risks to get the most out of her life and to stand up for women’s rights. I admire how she always remains hopeful despite the oppression and fear she experienc “My grandmother believed that one of the most difficult tasks that the Almighty can assign anyone is being a girl in Afghanistan.” This is the heartbreaking and inspiring story of Homeira Qaderi. She grows up in Afghanistan, where first the Russians come to war and later the Taliban is in power. She has always been brave and takes a lot of risks to get the most out of her life and to stand up for women’s rights. I admire how she always remains hopeful despite the oppression and fear she experiences every day. Eventually, Homeira becomes a mother and her son is taken from her when he is only 19 months old.. It is absolutely not a light read but it is beautifully written and insightful. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Euginia Sekar

    Left me speechless after I finished reading it. It is the kind of book that you'll need to pause in the middle of the story because your mind can't bear more imagination of pressures put down on Afghan girls. It really is a representation of the oppressed, a voice that every girl must listen to and understand, that there are a lot of other girls and women out there, being veiled and forbid to act freely. It also portrayed the pride of a woman regarding her womanhood, including being a mother, bu Left me speechless after I finished reading it. It is the kind of book that you'll need to pause in the middle of the story because your mind can't bear more imagination of pressures put down on Afghan girls. It really is a representation of the oppressed, a voice that every girl must listen to and understand, that there are a lot of other girls and women out there, being veiled and forbid to act freely. It also portrayed the pride of a woman regarding her womanhood, including being a mother, but in the end, she is torn between fighting for his son or fighting for the rights of the other women.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    As a feminist of the 70s who raised two feminist daughters, I am so disappointed with many women in 2020. How can they accept being second class citizens from their fathers, from their husbands, from their President? Men continue to be intimidated by strong smart females believing being equals with the opposite sex is demoralizing and demeans their own power. Reading about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban-no education, no leaving the house without a male family member, walking behind your hu As a feminist of the 70s who raised two feminist daughters, I am so disappointed with many women in 2020. How can they accept being second class citizens from their fathers, from their husbands, from their President? Men continue to be intimidated by strong smart females believing being equals with the opposite sex is demoralizing and demeans their own power. Reading about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban-no education, no leaving the house without a male family member, walking behind your husband while obeying him in all things, is too frightening to me. It is like Margaret Atwood tale.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie Mac

    I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book made me cry actual tears. Qaderi writes about the heartwrenching experience of having her son taken from her while also outlining the horrors of growing up under the shadow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Though she finds moments of joy and depicts the kernels of hope in a beautiful way, the events of her life are often brutal. If you need a good cry but want to read a thoughtfully written memoir, try this o I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book made me cry actual tears. Qaderi writes about the heartwrenching experience of having her son taken from her while also outlining the horrors of growing up under the shadow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Though she finds moments of joy and depicts the kernels of hope in a beautiful way, the events of her life are often brutal. If you need a good cry but want to read a thoughtfully written memoir, try this one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen Troutman

    Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to a son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story—and that of Afghan women—Homeira challenges you to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival. Her story asks you to consider the lengths you would go to protect yourself, your family, and your dignity.. I really learned alot about life for women in Afganistan. We have a lot to be thankful for in USA. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. 4 star

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I read this book with such awe for Homeira Qaderi and will the other women of Afghanistan whose lives are controlled by a continuous stream of menfolk. Her memoir is honest and heartbreaking, brave and vulnerable! It is a story of love and a story of family. There are nuggets of humour and moments of “fist in the air” triumph embedded in this searing story of religion and misogyny and the result is affecting and long lasting on the reader .

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bri

    What a must read book! She tells what life was like growing up in war torn Afghanistan, during the conflict with the Russians and then under the Taliban. Women had no voice and no status at all, so the fact that she was able to become educated and then have the courage to lift the veil to tell us her story is incredible.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    This story follows the journey of a woman who went against society norms in Afghanistan and was outlawed from her community and son because she would not accept her taliban husband to gain a second wife. As the story goes on she tells of her early life and experiences in forms of letters to her son.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    Such a wonderful and sad memoir. I applaud her for her strength and courage in trying times and for her voice now. As a mother, I can't imagine any of that. I was slightly surprised that the correlation of oppression of women to the Muslim religion was never made. The women were oppressed due to religion well before and after the Taliban reign of terror. Such a wonderful and sad memoir. I applaud her for her strength and courage in trying times and for her voice now. As a mother, I can't imagine any of that. I was slightly surprised that the correlation of oppression of women to the Muslim religion was never made. The women were oppressed due to religion well before and after the Taliban reign of terror.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Craig David

    Beautifully written, Homeira Qaderi writes a letter to her soon that she can't see. The father of her son won't allow it. Her letters speak of her childhood and why she ended up in California. It is such a unique perspective. Beautifully written, Homeira Qaderi writes a letter to her soon that she can't see. The father of her son won't allow it. Her letters speak of her childhood and why she ended up in California. It is such a unique perspective.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Bookerworm

    Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to her Son is an insightful and heart-wrenching book by an incredibly brave woman. Read more of our review here: http://www.bookerworm.com/reviews/657... Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to her Son is an insightful and heart-wrenching book by an incredibly brave woman. Read more of our review here: http://www.bookerworm.com/reviews/657...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This was a powerful story about life as a woman in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. I would never have imagined what it is like. Please read this novel! I hope I can hear the author speak somewhere sometime.

  27. 4 out of 5

    شیرین شکراللهی

    I'm grateful to know this woman, to know her story! Homeira, you are a perfect mother and you always will be! Siyavash will be honored that his mother is such an inspiration and fights for her rights. I'm grateful to know this woman, to know her story! Homeira, you are a perfect mother and you always will be! Siyavash will be honored that his mother is such an inspiration and fights for her rights.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I was saddened by the horrible experiences this woman went through. I also could not understand how she could just leave her child. I think I would have put up with the second wife and h stayed. That would have put more pressure on the government than being in another country.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    A little predictable, wish the author would have focused more on her married life and post married life as i found it more interesting. Impressive that author succeeded through all the Afghan turmoils. So sad that such a country exists.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tana

    The story of Homeira, her son and life as a woman in Afghanistan. Well done memoir.

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