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A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family…

A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story

by Qais Akbar Omar

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I would put this on my shelf right next to Malala's book. It's another true and even more incredible story of a boy's blissful life in Afghanistan before and under the Mujahadeen and the Taliban. Qais is a son of a very large Afghan family living all together in a splendid Kabul home, with special love for his grandfather and older cousin Wakeel. His father is a well-to-do carpet seller who thrived during the Russian occupation until the war of the warlords begins. In heartbreaking passages, neither Grandfather nor Wakeel live to tell their own tales.

After an incredible refugee life all over Afghanistan fleeing the death and violence, including living in the head of a carved Buddha in the mountains and joining their goatherd cousins for a season, the book ends with Qais back in Kabul, now selling carpets of his own making, and training women and girls to do the same because the Taliban does not allow women out of the house.

The book reads like a novel and it is just as remarkable a survivor's tale as Malala's. Five stars for writing and for courage. ( )
  froxgirl | Jun 29, 2014 |
I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself after reading Qais Akbar Omar’s memoir, A Fort Of Nine Towers. He's not too much younger than me, I think, but has lived a completely different life, growing up in Afghanistan and seeing things no child should see. I want to go and find him, put my hand on his shoulder and say, “Brother, you have experienced the best and the worst of humanity, all while I thought my biggest problem was not having a larger screen television. You suffered outrageous physical and emotional pain while I was busy eating rich food and wringing my hands over how disappointing I thought the Star Wars prequels were. Thank you for telling your story - your people's story - and for reminding me how vital and strong the human spirit is.”

This book is a window into the heartbeat of Afghanistan that will stay with me for a long, long time. ( )
3 vote madcurrin | Nov 24, 2013 |
A powerful read.

This book certainly packed a punch!
An autobiographical story of a young boy's life in Afghanistan, from the final days of Communism, through civil war and the Mujahideen war lords, to the rise of the Taliban. His is a wealthy, well educated family, who must leave behind their home and wealth to escape the rocket attacks between neighbouring factions of the Mujahideen.

They pile sixteen family members into the car and drive the five miles to a friend's house, known as the Fort of Nine Towers. This becomes their new home and the starting point for the many adventures they experience in their ultimate quest to escape from Afghanistan into a new life.

This is a very close knit family and the love really shines through, in spite of the extreme situations they find themselves in. They are surrounded by a lot of cruelty and sadistic behaviour from the ruling powers, which at times can be harrowing to read about, let alone imagine living through.

The Taliban the author describes are illiterate, unwashed and violent.
Although I have read several books about Afghanistan at this time, most concentrate on the restrictions placed on women, so this was particularly interesting, coming from a male author and covering the problems from a male perspective.

We discussed Fort of Nine Towers at our multicultural book group and it was an excellent discussion. One point that was raised however, that did make me think, was the question as to whether all this really happened to one man or if he may have included a few experiences from other friends or relatives. I'm on the fence with this question, but I can see why one might wonder....
In spite of this, a truly powerful read, absolutely fascinating, this gripped me right to the end.

Highly recommended. ( )
  DubaiReader | Jun 30, 2013 |
Showing 3 of 3
Omar reveals character with the economy of a seasoned novelist. His deeply religious grandfather, the family's revered patriarch; his proud father, humiliated by his inability to protect them; his devoted mother and teasing older sister all live on the page, as does the deaf-mute carpet weaver he encounters during their flight. She imparts without words the skill that gives Omar a trade and a reason to persevere in the bleakest days of Taliban oppression, and his book -- tender and hopeful against all odds -- closes with the wish that they will meet again.
added by ozzer | editNewsday, WENDY SMITH (May 15, 2013)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374157642, Hardcover)

One of the rare memoirs of Afghanistan to have been written by an Afghan, A Fort of Nine Towers reveals the richness and suffering of life in a country whose history has become deeply entwined with our own.
     For the young Qais Akbar Omar, Kabul was a city of gardens where he flew kites from his grandfather’s roof with his cousin Wakeel while their parents, uncles, and aunts drank tea around a cloth spread in the grass. It was a time of telling stories, reciting poetry, selling carpets, and arranging marriages.Then civil war exploded. Their neighborhood found itself on the front line of a conflict that grew more savage by the day.
     With rockets falling around them, Omar’s family fled, leaving behind everything they owned to take shelter in an old fort—only a few miles distant and yet a world away from the gunfire. As the violence escalated, Omar’s father decided he must take his children out of the country to safety. On their perilous journey, they camped in caves behind the colossal Buddha statues in Bamyan, and took refuge with nomad cousins, herding their camels and sheep. While his father desperately sought smugglers to take them over the border, Omar grew up on the road, and met a deaf-mute carpet weaver who would show him his life’s purpose.
     Later, as the Mujahedin war devolved into Taliban madness, Omar learned about quiet resistance. He survived a brutal and arbitrary imprisonment, and, at eighteen, opened a secret carpet factory to provide work for neighborhood girls, who were forbidden to go to school or even to leave their homes. As they tied knots at their looms, Omar’s parents taught them literature and science.
     In this stunning coming-of-age memoir, Omar recounts terrifyingly narrow escapes and absurdist adventures, as well as moments of intense joy and beauty. Inflected with folktales, steeped in poetry, A Fort of Nine Towers is a life-affirming triumph.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A young Afghan man's memoir of his family and country in which the horrors and perils he faced, his imprisonment, and his quiet resistance explore life in a country whose history has become deeply entwined with the United States, but has eluded understanding.… (more)

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