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"[A] rollicking story...Kabul Beauty School transcends the feel-good genre largely because of the author's superior storytelling gifts and wicked sense of humor."

- The New York Times

"Composed of heartbreak, hope, poignancy and candor...Kabul Beauty School is laid out masterfully, pulling readers in from the very first page."

- Los Angeles Times

I’m a hairdresser and a storyteller. I never thought that I’d be a writer. But I’m also a big believer of signs. The story of the book goes back to when I first started my trips to and from Afghanistan to set up the beauty school. I was still working at my mother’s salon in Holland, Michigan, and had a house and bills to pay. More than ever, I needed to keep my customers.

So each night while I was away, I would write long emails to my customers to inform them about what I was doing, what I was learning and what life was like in this country that was worlds apart from anything I had ever known. I had hoped that by doing this, they would await my return from Kabul so I could do their hair. Bless them, for this is exactly what they did.

It never occurred to me to save those emails. But one day at the salon, one of my friends handed me a package and said, “Here is your book.” I opened it to find all my emails, spell-checked and with pictures, bound in a book. Mouth open with shock and gratitude, I leafed through the pages and realized how much of the details I had forgotten. It was right there and then that I decided to write everyday.

The book begins

I was in Afghanistan when Random House said they would buy my book. I was stunned. A new dimension of my life was unfolding. I gathered the women at the salon to talk about what the book should be about. Over 200 students had attended the school, each of them with a story worth telling. It was tough, but in the end I narrowed the choice down to those you see in the book. Kristin Ohlson (who helped pen the book) and I went over the stories carefully with each individual, to ensure that she was ready to share her story and to remain true to the facts as they were told.

To this day, I continue to have so much respect and admiration for these women. They wanted the world to know how the lives of majority of the women in Afghanistan barely improved even after the war. While they knew a book could not change anything, it would at least ensure that they would not be forgotten.

Published, but the story doesn’t end

We all worked so hard on the book together that we did not foresee the security problems we would encounter when the book was released. I questioned whether I had done the right thing. When eventually my own safety became an issue, I had to flee the country, leaving behind a life and friendships that I had worked so hard to build.

I was a broken woman when I arrived back in the United States. I hadn’t planned on having to rebuild my life yet again. It took months, but then I realized that in a small way, I had experienced how war and insecurity can turn your life upside down. What else is there to do but to regroup, pick up the pieces, learn from the past and look only ahead. That’s what my Afghan friends had learned to do and I would be dishonoring my friendships if I didn’t do the same.

The book has opened a window into the lives of these amazing women. Afghanistan has changed my life forever and I am grateful each day for the opportunity I have to share this with the world through the book and through my speaking engagements in the U.S. and around the world. My hope is that it can serve as an inspiration to others to go out and make a difference. If a hairdresser with a story to tell is able to do it, then others most certainly can, too.

Since the launch of the hardcover edition of the book, an afterword has been added to the paperback edition to tell the story of how and why I left Afghanistan. If you own the hardback, you can download the afterword by clicking on the link below.

(PDF format, requires Acrobat Reader)


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