This month kicks off Beaufort County Library's "One County Reads One Country" project, where we encourage the community to engage in a thoughtful dialogue about Afghanistan through reading one of three selected titles and participating in the scheduled events coordinated by the library system. The titles that have been chosen are: "The Dressmaker of Khair Khana ," by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon for adults; "In the Sea There Are Crocodiles ," by Fabio Geda for teens; and "Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan ," edited by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan for children. The reading doesn't have to end there; if we've whet your appetite to read other stories about Afghanistan, here are a few recommendations:
In "An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan ," Jason Elliot shares his account of several visits to Afghanistan -- one in 1979 when he was smuggled into the Soviet-occupied country and the second 10 years later, just prior to Taliban rule. Elliott leaves the relative safety of Kabul to venture to the northern mountains near Uzbekistan, travelling by foot, horseback and trucks. Part travelogue, part historical narrative, full of insight into the people and culture of Afghanistan, Elliot illuminates the beauty and allure of a world not often observed by outsiders.
In 2001, Deborah Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan joined a mission trip to Afghanistan to offer aid after the withdrawal of the Taliban. Surrounded by doctors, nurses and others whose skills Rodriguez felt far surpassed her own, Rodriguez grappled with how she could contribute. When word got out of her profession, she was flooded with requests from Westerners desiring a good haircut and Afghan women, who have a proud history of running their own businesses. Thus, an idea was born. The Kabul Beauty School was opened in 2003, and Rodriguez set out to empower Afghan women to become breadwinners for their families. "Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil " details Rodriguez's moving, entertaining, humorous and inspiring experiences.
For a touching fictional account of Kabul after Taliban rule, try "Born Under a Million Shadows ," by Andrea Busfield. The precocious 11-year-old narrator of the novel, Fawad, has lost his father and brother, and his sister was abducted. He and his mother struggle to survive, and yet he never loses his optimism that things will get better. When his mother secures a position as a housekeeper for three Westerners, it seems that life is improving. His new living situation opens up a brand new world for Fawad, full of foreigners, journalists and aid workers, and exposing him to intriguing situations and experiences. Ever observant, Fawad chronicles daily life in a changing country with an inimitable blend of wit, hope and cleverness.
We hope you join us for one of the many events we have planned to celebrate "One County Reads One Country." For a schedule of dates and times, go to http://beaufortcountylibrary.org/ocroc/schedule  or visit your local branch library. In addition, there is a bibliography of related materials at http://beaufortcountylibrary.org/OCROC .