In the days before Homeira Qaderi gave birth to her son, Siawash, the road to the hospital in Kabul would often be barricaded because of the frequent suicide explosions. With the city and the military on edge, it was not uncommon for an armed soldier to point his gun at the pregnant woman’s bulging stomach, terrified that she was hiding a bomb. Propelled by the love she held for her soon-to-be-born child, Homeira walked through blood and wreckage to reach the hospital doors. But the joy of her beautiful son’s birth was soon overshadowed by other dangers that would threaten her life.
No ordinary Afghan woman, Homeira refused to cower under the strictures of a misogynistic social order. Defying the law, at the age of thirteen, she risked her freedom to teach children reading and writing and fought for women’s rights in her theocratic and patriarchal society.
Devastating in its power, Dancing in the Mosque is a mother’s searing letter to the son she was forced to leave behind. In telling her story – and that of Afghan women – Homeira challenges us to reconsider the meaning of motherhood, sacrifice, and survival.
This is a beautiful book. It is not simply a memoir of misery and gloom, although there is sadness and grief and loss and anger here. This is much more. This is a real story, about a real woman, who had to make an incredibly difficult decision.
Because it is real, and because life is so much more complicated than simple ‘good’ and ‘bad’, there is humour here too, and laughter, and love and friendship. There are wonderful family relationships, and insights into a world that feels very different but that, in some ways, shows how similar people actually are.
The writing is absolutely beautiful in places, and this is a story that carries you along, caring so deeply about the writer and what happens to her.
I find it difficult to review books like this because it is all to easy to point out the faults in another country when we don’t acknowledge the slow erosion of rights in our own country – particularly those of women and the LGBTQ+ community (especially when situations in other countries are often partly or wholly caused by the actions of this country). I prefer to let the women of these countries speak for themselves. Books like this are so important because they allow women a voice.
Highly recommended – a very important and beautiful book.