The Lovers : Afghanistan's Romeo and Juliet, the True Story of How They Defied Their Families
Author(s): Rod Nordland
A riveting, real-life equivalent of The Kite Runner—an astonishingly powerful and profoundly moving story of a young couple willing to risk everything for love that puts a human face on the ongoing debate about women’s rights in the Muslim world.
Zakia and Ali were from different tribes, but they grew up on neighboring farms in the hinterlands of Afghanistan. By the time they were young teenagers, Zakia, strikingly beautiful and fiercely opinionated, and Ali, shy and tender, had fallen in love. Defying their families, sectarian differences, cultural conventions, and Afghan civil and Islamic law, they ran away together only to live under constant threat from Zakia’s large and vengeful family, who have vowed to kill her to restore the family’s honor. They are still in hiding.
Despite a decade of American good intentions, women in Afghanistan are still subjected to some of the worst human rights violations in the world. Rod Nordland, then the Kabul bureau chief of the New York Times, had watched these abuses unfold for years when he came upon Zakia and Ali, and has not only chronicled their plight, but has also shepherded them from danger.
The Lovers will do for women’s rights generally what Malala’s story did for women’s education. It is an astonishing story about self-determination and the meaning of love that illustrates, as no policy book could, the limits of Western influence on fundamentalist Islamic culture and, at the same time, the need for change.
“A hopeful tale of youthful romance, of passion and perseverance against the backdrop of a war ravaged Afghanistan. . . . [Nordland’s] skills as a journalist are evident in his rendering of this love blossoming against all odds.”
“A rich account of Zakia and Ali’s romance that doubles as an indictment of the Afghan patriarchy’s abuse of women and the failures of all those in power, inside and outside the country, to curtail it.”
“Nordland offers a stark, eye-opening look at the deplorable state of women’s rights in Afghanistan through the travails of a brave, determined young couple.”
“From the couple’s elopement to their elevation to media prominence, Nordland’s storytelling remains gripping, with more than a hint of Shakespearean drama.”
“Meticulously reported and written, Nordland’s book is an exceptionally well-delineated glimpse into the marriage practices of a closed patriarchal society and the suffering it has caused women. A provocative, well-told story of love . . . and an incisive examination of the continued violation of women’s rights in Afghanistan.”
“An appealing love story of a young couple from neighboring farming families in mountainous northern Afghanistan. … A heartfelt, readable account for those interested in the personal impact of a decade of American engagement in Afghanistan.”
“A captivating account of forbidden love in one of the world’s most conservative countries. Nordland takes the reader on his personal journey to save a couple from the inevitable doom of secret love in Afghanistan and reveals an unprecedented window into the country’s cultural constraints.
“This sensitive and unblinking portrait of love and injustice somehow encompasses Afghanistan’s recent tragedy: hope, suffering, disillusionment, resilience. Rod Nordland has come as close as any Western reporter to the human heart beneath the headlines.”
“... a searing analysis of the endemic gender terrorism in a culture where no woman of any age or class . . . is immune from brutality at the hands of her own kinsmen. You will never use the word ‘patriarchy’ casually after you read it. And read it you must.”
“Rod Nordland has written a riveting, romantic page-turner about two young people fighting to be together against terrible odds. This is a vitally important book that exposes the abominable treatment of women by a society the U.S., in its ignorance, has fought to preserve.”