In My Father's Country

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 4/24/2012
  • Publisher: Crown

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Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, at age three Saima Wahab watched while her father was arrested and taken from their home by the KGB. She would never see him again. When she was fifteen an uncle who lived in Portland, Oregon brought her to America. Having to learn an entire new language, she nonetheless graduated from high school in three years and went on to earn a bachelor's degree. In 2004 she signed on with a defense contractor to work as an interpreter in Afghanistan, never realizing that she would blaze the trail for a new kind of diplomacy, earning the trust of both high-ranking U.S. army officials and Afghan warlords alike. When she arrived in Afghanistan in the winter of 2004, Saima was the only college-educated female Pashto speaker in the entire country. She was stunned to learn how little U.S. and coalition forces knew about the Pashtun, who comprise 40% of the population and from whom the Taliban arose. The blessing of the Pashtun is essential, but the U.S. army was so unaware of the workings of this ancient, proud, insular ethic group, that they would routinely send Farsi interpreters into Pashtun villages. As a Pashtun-born American citizen, Saima found herself in an extraordinary position-to be able to explain the people of her native land to those of her adopted one, and vice versa, in a quest to forge new and lasting bonds between two misunderstood cultures. In My Father's Countryfollows Saima's remarkable journey from child refugee to nervous Pashto interpreter to intrepid "Human Terrain" specialist, venturing with her 25-man security detail into isolated Pashtun villages to engage hostile village elders in the first dialogue they've ever had with an American. From her anxious American high school years to her posting at operating base Farah in Afghanistan's blistering western frontier to the year she spent at Jalalabad translating for provincial Governor and "Hollywood Pashtun" Sherzai, to the near-suicide missions of a year in the Khost Province, where she "cracked the code" of the Zadran, the most warrior-like of Pashtun tribes, Saima Wahab's is an incomparable story of one young woman's unwavering courage and undaunted spirit.

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