The reading circuit for 2012 has concluded, and in my case, it’s back to Afghanistan where it started with the story of Enaiatollah Akbari, taken by his mother to Pakistan to escape the persecution of the Taliban.

I have been reading ‘Letters to my Daughters’, written by Fawzia Koofi in collaboration with Nadene Ghouri. It is subtitled ‘between terror and hope, the struggles of the first Afghan women in politics’. Fawzia Koofi was elected to be the vice-president of the lower chamber of the Afghan parliament when it was reformed in 2005 and intends to be a candidate in the 2014 presidential elections.

The book tells the story of her life, with letters to her two daughters and also to her dead mother and father seeded between the chapters. She was born in 1975 in Koofi in Badakhstan, the most northerly and impoverished region of Afghanistan. Her family was important in local politics and her father was a deputy to the first Afghan parliament which was called under the monarchy of Zaher Shah in 1965. Her grandfather had been an important local leader.


I have been reading Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn. It is set in the mid nineteen fifties in southern Ireland and in Brooklyn. The story is the story of Irish emigration, at a time when the economy is stagnant and jobs difficult to find. Eilis Lacey’s brothers are in Birmingham in England. Her sister, Rose, does have a good job, but Eilis can only find a Sunday job in a local shop.

Her emigration to Brooklyn, where opportunities are better, is mediated though her sister Rose and the brief return of an Irish priest from Brooklyn. Father Flood organises her employment with Bartocci’s in Brooklyn which enables her to get immigration papers. Her sister has one of the few good jobs around, but by sending her sister away, she is condemning herself to remaining close to their mother and giving up chances to marry.