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My Pen is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women

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"Powerful, profound and deeply moving, new fiction by Afghan women writers will expand your mind and elevate your heart" ELIF SHAFAK "My pen is the wing of a bird; it will tell you those thoughts we are not allowed to think, those dreams we are not allowed to dream" A woman's fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet. "Powerful, profound and deeply moving, new fiction by Afghan women writers will expand your mind and elevate your heart" ELIF SHAFAK "My pen is the wing of a bird; it will tell you those thoughts we are not allowed to think, those dreams we are not allowed to dream" A woman's fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet. A petition writer reflects on his life as a dog lies nursing her puppies. A tormented girl tries to find love through a horrific act. A headmaster makes his way to work, treading the fine line between life and death. "A precious collection of work, the first and maybe the last of its kind. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment" MONIQUE ROFFEY, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a landmark collection: the first anthology of short fiction by Afghan women. Eighteen writers tell stories that are both unique and universal - stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity and cultural traditions. "This book reminds us that everyone has a story. Stories matter; so too the storytellers. Afghan women writers, informed and inspired by their own personal experiences, are best placed to bring us these powerful insights into the lives of Afghans and, most of all, the lives of women. Women's lives, in their own words - they matter." Lyse Doucet in her Introduction This collection introduces extraordinary voices from the country's two main linguistic groups (Pashto and Dari) with original, vital and unexpected stories to tell, developed over two years through UNTOLD's Write Afghanistan project. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird comes at a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's history, when these voices must be heard. With an Introduction by BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet and an Afterword by Lucy Hannah ABOUT UNTOLD UNTOLD is a writer development programme for marginalised writers in areas of conflict and post-conflict. Afghanistan has millions of Pashto and Dari speakers with little or no local support for creative writing, literary translation, or literary editing. Support for writers has been hampered by cultural norms, free expression issues, chronic instability, and internal displacement. UNTOLD has been working one-to-one with women on their short stories, with English-speaking literary editors and translators working with the writers to realise the potential of their stories for publication both locally and globally in translation.


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"Powerful, profound and deeply moving, new fiction by Afghan women writers will expand your mind and elevate your heart" ELIF SHAFAK "My pen is the wing of a bird; it will tell you those thoughts we are not allowed to think, those dreams we are not allowed to dream" A woman's fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet. "Powerful, profound and deeply moving, new fiction by Afghan women writers will expand your mind and elevate your heart" ELIF SHAFAK "My pen is the wing of a bird; it will tell you those thoughts we are not allowed to think, those dreams we are not allowed to dream" A woman's fortitude saves her village from disaster. A teenager explores their identity in a moment of quiet. A petition writer reflects on his life as a dog lies nursing her puppies. A tormented girl tries to find love through a horrific act. A headmaster makes his way to work, treading the fine line between life and death. "A precious collection of work, the first and maybe the last of its kind. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a huge accomplishment" MONIQUE ROFFEY, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird is a landmark collection: the first anthology of short fiction by Afghan women. Eighteen writers tell stories that are both unique and universal - stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity and cultural traditions. "This book reminds us that everyone has a story. Stories matter; so too the storytellers. Afghan women writers, informed and inspired by their own personal experiences, are best placed to bring us these powerful insights into the lives of Afghans and, most of all, the lives of women. Women's lives, in their own words - they matter." Lyse Doucet in her Introduction This collection introduces extraordinary voices from the country's two main linguistic groups (Pashto and Dari) with original, vital and unexpected stories to tell, developed over two years through UNTOLD's Write Afghanistan project. My Pen Is the Wing of a Bird comes at a pivotal moment in Afghanistan's history, when these voices must be heard. With an Introduction by BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet and an Afterword by Lucy Hannah ABOUT UNTOLD UNTOLD is a writer development programme for marginalised writers in areas of conflict and post-conflict. Afghanistan has millions of Pashto and Dari speakers with little or no local support for creative writing, literary translation, or literary editing. Support for writers has been hampered by cultural norms, free expression issues, chronic instability, and internal displacement. UNTOLD has been working one-to-one with women on their short stories, with English-speaking literary editors and translators working with the writers to realise the potential of their stories for publication both locally and globally in translation.

30 review for My Pen is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women

  1. 5 out of 5

    bookishcharli

    If you want that will make you re-evaluate your life then this is it. The amount of reflecting I’ve done since finishing this book in insane, I know I am lucky enough to live a privileged life, but I really didn’t know just how bad some people’s lives could be. One of these women wrote her story in the middle of a damn war that was going on, I know this is headline news at the moment with what’s going on in Europe and the Middle East but I’ve never truly realized just how comfy and safe my life If you want that will make you re-evaluate your life then this is it. The amount of reflecting I’ve done since finishing this book in insane, I know I am lucky enough to live a privileged life, but I really didn’t know just how bad some people’s lives could be. One of these women wrote her story in the middle of a damn war that was going on, I know this is headline news at the moment with what’s going on in Europe and the Middle East but I’ve never truly realized just how comfy and safe my life is compared to so many people in this world. This is one hell of a powerful book and I want to slap people round the face with it to make them read it. This is a life changing book, it makes you re-think so many things, re-evaluate what’s really important in life, we may all share the same planet, but we do not share the same lives in any way. My story and life are so very different from all of these women in every single way. I haven’t been this moved and motivated by a book in a very very long time. What an absolutely beautifully heartbreaking read this way. Thank you to Quercus for giving these amazing women a platform in which to showcase their creativity and their voices. Let their voices forever ring out loud and true.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tripfiction

    Short Stories set in AFGHANISTAN The stories “...take us into the small but ever so significant minutiae of daily life”. Through tiny observations we, as readers, can identify with the plight of so many women in Afghanistan, whose daily lives are like our own, yet so significantly different in many – and oftentimes – terrible ways. These stories, sometimes just through their simplicity, cause the reader to reflect and even recoil; but this is real life for so many. There are various translators to Short Stories set in AFGHANISTAN The stories “...take us into the small but ever so significant minutiae of daily life”. Through tiny observations we, as readers, can identify with the plight of so many women in Afghanistan, whose daily lives are like our own, yet so significantly different in many – and oftentimes – terrible ways. These stories, sometimes just through their simplicity, cause the reader to reflect and even recoil; but this is real life for so many. There are various translators to credit for bringing these authors’ tales to a whole new readership, making the voice of Afghan women accessible. The authors originally wrote their stories in one of two languages – Pashto and Dari. Various aspects of culture and daily living conditions meld together in each narrative. The stories are of family, betrayal, friendship and love, many set against a back drop of real life events. Highlighted sometimes are culturally specific aspects – the anxiety around producing baby daughters when sons are revered and desired; the ramifications of husbands taking multiple wives with the blessing of society; and women just trying to go about daily life, amidst mortar attacks whilst trying to hold down a job or continue with education. Running through several stories is a sense of loneliness, how a war situation adds another dimension to endemic volatility under Taliban rule, it really affects individuals. How solace can be found in pets and animal connections, and how disappearing into imagination is a relief from the world around. There are visceral scenes and descriptions that are rich in the sights, sounds and smells of the country… the clay walls that emanate a specific feel, and the rich fragrances of cooking and herbs waft off the page. We know that many nations have got involved in the country over the years and now – after many of these stories had actually been penned – the country was left summarily in late Summer 2021 to its own devices. Women once again have been forced to remain absent from mainstream life, stripped of their hard won rights, which is such a depressingly regressive step for so many. At the end of this collection, in the Afterword by Lucy Hannah, it is explicit that these stories for now cannot be published in Afghanistan, it is too dangerous. Stories help make sense of the world and so the authors featured here continue to write. Some are still in Afghanistan, others have managed to flee. Afghanistan, says Hannah, has never been heard or understood, so giving women the opportunity to bring their stories into a wider world continues to be essential.

  3. 4 out of 5

    On the Same Page

    ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. CWs: death, violence This anthology sets out to make the voices of Afghan women heard, and it absolutely accomplishes that. The short stories in this book are all very different from each other in tone, concept and also quality. No doubt everyone reading this will have a different set of favourites. But all of them show different facets of what life is like in Afghanistan. Some of the stories deal with violence, whi ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. CWs: death, violence This anthology sets out to make the voices of Afghan women heard, and it absolutely accomplishes that. The short stories in this book are all very different from each other in tone, concept and also quality. No doubt everyone reading this will have a different set of favourites. But all of them show different facets of what life is like in Afghanistan. Some of the stories deal with violence, while others take more of a "slice of life" approach. They're all important and illuminating, and I hope more people pick this book up. The afterword is very enlightening about the circumstances surrounding the writing and compilation of this book, and I highly recommend reading that as well.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jane Fudger

    This book of short stories gives an illuminating insight into the life of women in Afghanistan. The stories are written by various Afghan females probably at some risk. Each story highlights glimpses into a shuttered world and the day to day lives of women and the violence, bias and love they experience. I found the stories "Daughter Number Eight" and "D is for Daud"most poignant. I hope this is not the last we hear of these authors This book of short stories gives an illuminating insight into the life of women in Afghanistan. The stories are written by various Afghan females probably at some risk. Each story highlights glimpses into a shuttered world and the day to day lives of women and the violence, bias and love they experience. I found the stories "Daughter Number Eight" and "D is for Daud"most poignant. I hope this is not the last we hear of these authors

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lauren pavey

    I didn’t think anything could effect me after my recent reads but the power in this book was breathtaking. If someone asked me to describe this book in one word it would be reflection . When I originally heard about this book I almost shrugged it off thinking as it was a collection of short stories it would be a quick and easy read but my goodness I was wrong. The stories were powerful , incredibly moving and breathtaking. After each story I found I had to take time to reflect , on my life , the I didn’t think anything could effect me after my recent reads but the power in this book was breathtaking. If someone asked me to describe this book in one word it would be reflection . When I originally heard about this book I almost shrugged it off thinking as it was a collection of short stories it would be a quick and easy read but my goodness I was wrong. The stories were powerful , incredibly moving and breathtaking. After each story I found I had to take time to reflect , on my life , the lives of the writers of these stories writing in a war torn world that I (in my safe home) can’t even comprehend . This felt even more poignant given the war unfurling in Ukraine . One line which will stay with me for a long time is ‘war won’t take our creativity away’. I truly hope it never does . Family , friendship, war , betrayal, love these stories explore every theme with depth unlike anything I have read before. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It has truly changed the way I am thinking and has made me so appreciative of the things in my life . It has truly altered how I see myself and my life. This book is powerful and breathtaking and my only criticism is that I want to read more by these gifted and talented writers. Thank you to the team behind this book who have given these writers a platform.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kaffeeklatsch and Books

    Usually with short story collections there's always really good ones, some bad ones and meh ones. This collection is different. EVERY SINGLE ONE of the stories is amazing! There wasn't one that I didn't like or was bad. This alone bis an achievement by itself. It's plain and simple. Everyone needs to read this. Full. Stop. I sincerely hope this book gets the attention it deserves and that we get more like this soon. Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Usually with short story collections there's always really good ones, some bad ones and meh ones. This collection is different. EVERY SINGLE ONE of the stories is amazing! There wasn't one that I didn't like or was bad. This alone bis an achievement by itself. It's plain and simple. Everyone needs to read this. Full. Stop. I sincerely hope this book gets the attention it deserves and that we get more like this soon. Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lin

    5 stars for everything this beautiful anthology represents

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rhoda

    A powerful collection of short stories written by Afghan women. Although works of fiction, these ladies draw from their everyday lives to create an eye-opening set of stories. Written before the return to power of the Taliban, one can only imagine the other stories they might have to tell now. For their safety these talented writers must keep their identities hidden for now. This is a book that makes you stop and think. It is at times shocking, at others heart-breaking, overall it is an incredibl A powerful collection of short stories written by Afghan women. Although works of fiction, these ladies draw from their everyday lives to create an eye-opening set of stories. Written before the return to power of the Taliban, one can only imagine the other stories they might have to tell now. For their safety these talented writers must keep their identities hidden for now. This is a book that makes you stop and think. It is at times shocking, at others heart-breaking, overall it is an incredibly powerful piece of work that I feel honoured to have read. I shall be thinking about this book and these anonymous ladies for quite some time.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Liv

    My Pen is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women A collection of short stories bringing together the work of eighteen Afghan women writers which are translated from Pashto and Dari and brought together by Untold's Write Afghanistan Project over several years. This is not necessarily an easy collection to read because of some of the heavy themes around war, death, grief, domestic abuse and so on, but what connects these stories is the focus on life. On family, friendships, work, and cultur My Pen is the Wing of a Bird: New Fiction by Afghan Women A collection of short stories bringing together the work of eighteen Afghan women writers which are translated from Pashto and Dari and brought together by Untold's Write Afghanistan Project over several years. This is not necessarily an easy collection to read because of some of the heavy themes around war, death, grief, domestic abuse and so on, but what connects these stories is the focus on life. On family, friendships, work, and culture. There is a lot of variation to the collection and I will say, as I think often with anthologies, some of these worked for me and others didn't. However, this collection struck me with some of the poignancy and stark moments that shared the plight of Afghanistan women and people. The impact of war, death, the fight for education, the fight for equality. The hardships of poverty, hunger, safety and security. Due to the timing of the collection the contributors remain unnamed to protect their identities as many of the individuals chose to remain in Afghanistan and the current afterward makes reference to the support provided and the fact several of the contributors fled Afghanistan last year. I think this makes the project more stark and important to raise the voices of Afghan women and the issues of the people of Afghanistan currently. There are definitely stories that will linger and haunt me from this collection, and whilst I didn't love every one I am glad I picked this up. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    These stories by Afghan women are powerful and moving. Not all superb, but some really impacted me deeply. The stories will have you reflecting on your own life, and how privileged we are living in the Western world. Worth a read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    anon.reads

    What a truly special anthology of stories - my pen is the wing of a bird hears from a group of women who’s geographical location means their voices have long been muffled in the literary world. The Untold Writers project have achieved something wonderful in building these women a platform to spread the magic that lies within their words, & by empowering them to continue writing not only for themselves, but for a world who wants to hear their stories. The collection includes pieces of short ficti What a truly special anthology of stories - my pen is the wing of a bird hears from a group of women who’s geographical location means their voices have long been muffled in the literary world. The Untold Writers project have achieved something wonderful in building these women a platform to spread the magic that lies within their words, & by empowering them to continue writing not only for themselves, but for a world who wants to hear their stories. The collection includes pieces of short fiction written by 18 Afghan women - they include stories of family, work, childhood, friendship, war, gender identity, & cultural traditions. Each story is so unique and beautiful in its own way that I couldn’t possibly pick my favourite. Although pieces of fiction, some of the stories draw on real events that occurred in recent Afghan history, such as the devastating car bombing of Sayed al-Shuhada school in Western Kabul, and the suicide bombing which took place outside a wedding hall in Dubai City, Kabul. Lucy Hannah writes in the afterword: ‘at the time someone asked me “why would people carry on writing at a time like this?” [referring to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan & the fall of Kabul] and the answer is that, if you are a writer, this is what you do. Stories help us make sense of our world, particularly in the face of uncertainty and fear. As one of the writers said: “War won’t take our creativity away” The true identities of these writers cannot be revealed given the current situation in Afghanistan. But I hope one day we can hear about them & support them in the release of their own novels. I think we all owe it to these women, and their bravery in submitting stories within this collection, to make space to invest in their words. “If we talk to the person we see from afar and begin to unwrap their stories about childhood & youth & dreams, we might think differently. A woman in Europe or America wears high heels, & a woman in Afghanistan wears them too. But are our feet really in the same shoes?” Thank you some much to Quercus for sending this to me!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amna Waqar

    An anthology of poignant short stories written by Afghan women. Each story is unique. Each story is gripping. Each story evokes empathy. Each story is powerful. Not only are these women living in a patriarchal society, they are also living in a country ravaged by decades of war. The Afghans have a tribal culture; many of these stories are set in rural backdrops. There are cultural norms to adhere to which makes several of these stories hard-hitting. The lack of education amongst the elders is hig An anthology of poignant short stories written by Afghan women. Each story is unique. Each story is gripping. Each story evokes empathy. Each story is powerful. Not only are these women living in a patriarchal society, they are also living in a country ravaged by decades of war. The Afghans have a tribal culture; many of these stories are set in rural backdrops. There are cultural norms to adhere to which makes several of these stories hard-hitting. The lack of education amongst the elders is highlighted; the yearning for education of the younger ones is brought out. Some stories are set amidst the constant explosions; bombs and explosions that seem a part of daily life. In one particular story, a character in consumed with the paranoia of being killed in an ominous explosion. The stories have running themes of suffering, grief, loneliness and poverty. There are also stories about determination and strength. For the women who have written these stories, their pen is truly the wing of a bird. May their stories continue to soar. My thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    A mixture of stories which gives a broad sense of life in Afghanistan for all different types of women.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cathie

    Very moving collection.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jade Marshall

    My Pen is the Wing of a Bird is a truly revolutionary collection of short stories written by Afghan women. Forced to publish anonymously following the Taliban takeover, we can't yet know the authors' names for their own safety, but we can read their words and we can hear their voices. Across 18 original short stories, we are invited to share in both the brief moments and the lifelong struggles facing Afghan women. The authors center themes of family and friendship, duty and loyalty, faith and fre My Pen is the Wing of a Bird is a truly revolutionary collection of short stories written by Afghan women. Forced to publish anonymously following the Taliban takeover, we can't yet know the authors' names for their own safety, but we can read their words and we can hear their voices. Across 18 original short stories, we are invited to share in both the brief moments and the lifelong struggles facing Afghan women. The authors center themes of family and friendship, duty and loyalty, faith and freedom, but all of these stories offer a unique perspective and hold their own hard-learned lessons. Many of the stories touch on extremely difficult situations and heartbreaking events but, of course, this brutality and desperate fear is a constant presence in the lives of our narrators. The conflict within them often serves as a horrific mirroring of the conflict that surrounds their lives. And yet, there is also boundless love, glittering beauty and enduring hope to be found in these stories. One of my favourites in the collection, 'My Pillow's Journey of 11,876km', offers an insight into the distress of having to flee from your beloved homeland, of having to leave your family behind, and of having to step away from the fight when you still want to help the people you left behind. 'My peaceful sleep was because of the small service I used to do for my country, because of my streets, because of a sense of freedom one can feel only in one's own country.' With this project, Untold Writers has accomplished something unprecedented, something that represents what can be achieved when principle is prioritised above profit. What a profound reminder of the value of sharing our stories. I hope that these authors will be able to reclaim ownership of their stories and take pride in the power of their words.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sefito

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jade

  19. 4 out of 5

    Louise

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lucia

  21. 4 out of 5

    M N

  22. 5 out of 5

    Liz Bradshaw

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Whiteman

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amerah Mea

  25. 4 out of 5

    Manny

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bethan Bailey

  27. 5 out of 5

    Liss

  28. 4 out of 5

    HD

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen Lim

  30. 5 out of 5

    Juan Diego Garcia Quiroga

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