My Forbidden Face Author:Latifa From Publishers Weekly — Readers who want to know what life was really like when the Taliban ruled Kabul should turn off CNN and read this book. Latifa (who writes under a pseudonym) was a 16-year-old aspiring journalist when her brother rushed home one day in late 1996 with word that the white flag of the Taliban flew over their school and mosqu... more »e. She writes, "We knew the Taliban were not far away... but no one truly believed they would manage to enter Kabul." The bizarre edicts of the women-suppressing regime slowly become a reality: women weren't allowed outside the home unless they were shrouded in a "chadri" (which covers the face and arms, unlike a burka, which covers the entire body and according to Latifa is worn only in distant provinces) and accompanied by a male relative. "A girl is not allowed to converse with a young man. Infraction of this law will lead to the immediate marriage of the offenders." No wearing of bright colors or lipstick; no medical care from a male doctor. And women doctors were not allowed to work, essentially cutting off medical care for women. Latifa's story puts a face on these now-familiar rules, and conveys the sheer boredom of the lively teenager-turned-hermit and the desperation of not knowing if she'll ever complete her education in such an upside-down world. Despite its rushed ending (the family fled to France in May 2001 with the help of French Elle) and the occasional reminder that the author is now only 22 (there's talk of Madonna, Brooke Shields, fashion and Indian films), this memoir is one instance where a thousand words are worth more than any picture.
She could be the girl on the National Geographic cover. Before the Taliban takeover, Latifa's life revolved around school, friends, parties, and movies. Suddenly, she was confined to her apartment, unable to venture out uncovered by the hated burka. She and her family were spared the horrific fates of some of Kabul's residents but, in the end, lost nearly everything but their lives. With her exotic voice and exquisite diction, Brychta is Latifa. You won't doubt for a moment her fear, boredom, shock, or sorrow. What comes through most clearly is her indignation at the treatment of women and the fact that most of the world ignored it. Her relief at escape to Pakistan, and a single drink of fresh water, is palpable. She is safe now, in Paris, but her story, like the eyes of the cover girl, will haunt you.« less