At a time when global powers debate whether to legitimize the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by acknowledging it, and Afghan women, periodically a cause célèbre, have again been forgotten from the world’s consciousness and priorities, Siamak Herawi brings them centerstage in his novel Tali Girls and takes us deep into the heart of his motherland to witness the reality of their lives under the Taliban’s most extreme interpretation of Islam. The result is a sobering and harrowing tale that relates the current ethos of a country under occupation by one power or another for more than half a century.
Tali Girls follows three girls coming of age amidst brutal realities of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Told in a direct, conversational prose, this chorus of voices offers us a vivid picture of the endless cycle of the suffering of girls and women in the grip of the Taliban authorities, of the imbalance of power and opportunity. Based on true stories, the central figures illuminate the power of love, friendship, and generosity in the face of poverty and oppression. Their experiences and dilemmas have a visceral power and we become deeply attached to Kowsar, Geesu, and Simin. These are testaments of resilience, hope, courage, and visceral fear, of doors of opportunity, opening just a crack, that offer a way out. In Sara Khalili’s vibrant and nuanced translation from the Persian, Tali Girls tears down the curtain and exposes the treacherous realities of what women are up against in modern-day, war-torn Afghanistan.