BookTalkUNA presents


A FORT OF NINE TOWERS
An Afghan Family Story


Join us for an evening of discussion with special guest
QAIS AKBAR OMAR




BookTalkUNA
is held in conjunction with
the Institute of International Education


Monday, September 30, 2013

6 p.m. | Reception
6:30 p.m. | Presentation
7:15 p.m. | Book Signing

Institute of International Education
809 United Nations Plaza, Kaufman Center
New York, NY

 

ADMISSION

UNA Members: FREE
UNA Student Members: FREE
Guests and Non-Members: $15

Scroll down to bottom of page for registration links



In a rare memoir 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 Bamiyan, 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.

Omar has said, "When you create a carpet you have a medallion, a border and small patterns that fill the gaps. I try to apply that to my story. The medallion is my family, the small patterns around the medallion is what happened to us."

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 and steeped in poetry, A Fort of Nine Towers is a life-affirming triumph.

An Amazon "Best Book of the Month"

Read an excerpt from the book HERE


Qais Akbar Omar (whose first name is pronounced "Kice") manages his family's carpet business in Kabul and writes books. In 2007, he was a visiting scholar at the University of Colorado. He has studied business at Brandeis University and is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Boston University. Omar has lectured on Afghan carpets in Afghanistan, Europe, and the United States. He is the author of A Fort of Nine Towers and co-author, with Stephen Landrigan, of Shakespeare in Kabul.


A FORT OF NINE TOWERS in pictures


The author has selected the pictures that best capture the places and people in his book, taking us from the fort itself across the stunning countryside of Afghanistan, via monuments destroyed in wars and thriving markets.

The view from one of the caves behind the Bamyan Buddha where my family took refuge for a couple of months as we fled the fighting in Kabul and elsewhere. | Photo copyright Qais Akbar Omar

View Omar's selection of images HERE


Praise from the reviews


"This is a book for those who love Afghanistan, for those who want to understand it, or simply for those who value deeply the best in the human spirit. It is a tale that deserves to rank with The Kite Runner." — Ronald E. Neumann, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and president of the American Academy of Diplomacy

"As lyrical as it is haunting, this mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed debut memoir is also a loving evocation of a misunderstood land and people." — Kirkus Reviews

"Beautifully written, with the pacing and suspense of a novel... his richly detailed account of growing up in Afghanistan under the warlords and then the Taliban is deeply fulfilling, remarkable not least because he lived to tell the tale." — The Washington Post

"I know of no other book in which the complex realities of life—and death—in contemporary Afghanistan are so starkly and intimately portrayed. This brave memoir, rich in tough humor and insight, recounts an insider's view into both the suffering and the integrity of an uncompromisingly proud and courageous people. Above all, it is a powerful reminder of the extraordinary tenacity of a culture that foreigners have repeatedly and fatally misjudged." — Jason Elliot, author of An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan

"The first true life memoir of growing up in Kabul, this is both a magical and a chilling book which conveys the strength of family in truly terrible times. Definitely on my recommend list for 2013." — British journalist Christina Lamb, Sunday Times

"As lyrical as it is haunting, this mesmerizing, not-to-be-missed debut memoir is also a loving evocation of a misunderstood land and people." — Kirkus Reviews

"As Omar recounts in his new memoir, life in Afghanistan is full of rich culture, family tradition and storytelling ... [it] is Omar's attempt to heal the rift in understanding between our two cultures." — Bookish

"A powerful coming-of-age tale set in Afghanistan... Beautifully written, with the pacing and suspense of a novel, his memoir contains moments when the grief becomes almost too difficult to bear. Nonetheless, his richly detailed account of growing up in Afghanistan [...] is deeply fulfilling, remarkable not least because he lived to tell the tale. The product of an immensely talented writer, A Fort of Nine Towers puts a human face on the violent history of Afghanistan." — Rachel Newcom, author of Women of Fes: Amibiguities of Life in Urban Morocco and The Gift

"If you read only one book this summer, make it this one." — Oprah

"A Fort of Nine Towers captures a time and a place unknown to most Americans... graphic, certainly, but it's also sweet and funny and inspiring." — The Boston Globe


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