The lovers by Rod Nordland
Hodder and Stoughton, 2016. ISBN 9781473607002
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Journalist Rod Nordland's biography about the Afghan lovers Zakia and Ali is an engrossing tale about survival against all odds. The forbidden lovers' lives are changed forever by Ali's foolhardy declaration of love.
Like many Afghan woman, Zakia lived a sheltered life under the watchful eyes of her father, brothers, and male cousins. For Afghan pride however, they were not watchful enough. Zakia falls in love with the Hazara boy next door. The couple's courtship begins with just a handful of words in stolen moments but soon it progresses to scandalous secret phone calls and night-time visits in which Ali stands outsider Zakia's window, risking discovery just for the chance to talk with her. People just don't marry for love in Afghanistan, let alone marrying across ethnic groups (he was hazara and she was tajik). Before long Ali asked Zakia to marry him, despite their opposing ethnic groups - they would have to elope, a concept that was dangerous and would put both of them at risk of honour killings. Once the couple had run off together Zaman, Zakia's father, and his sons and nephews left their farm to hunt the couple down. Zakia had dishonoured her father and her family. The only way to regain that honour was for them to kill her. Zakia and Ali spent the next few years of their lives running from Zakia's family. Their plight received international attention with Rod Nordland's articles posing them as the Afghan Romeo and Juliette, not only did he write their stories for the New York Times, but he became the go-between for foreign assistance for the couple. He played an important role in their survival and continued international interest.
This novel is an eye-opener to the cultural differences between Afghanistan and the western world. It is certainly a testament to the luck of women living in a westernised world that they can voice their opinions, study, work, fall in love, and leave their house unattended without fear. Highly recommended for young people, in particular girls aged fifteen and up.
Kayla Gaskell (University student)