I always try to say yes to things, which has worked out pretty well, with a few horrifying exceptions. So when fellow Gotham teacher Masha Hamilton asked me if I’d be interested in helping with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project I said yes and immediately forgot all about it. Several months went by and then she said, “How about now?” With the result that for the last few weeks I’ve been teaching a writing class on-line to a group of young Afghan women and what an experience it has been. What stories they have to tell!
The other night I had an e mail from a young woman, Shogofa, who wrote a lovely essay about the smell of rice. Her family was hungry, but her neighbors had rice; the smell of it was tormenting her. So her mother hugged and comforted her, which made her realize that her mother’s smell was so much more important to her than that of the rice. Then her mother died, but before she did, she asked her husband to take some of the little money they had, to buy her daughter some rice. She wanted her daughter to have that comfort. The story was heartbreaking, but also inspiring and full of love and intelligence. What a joy to be able to connect to people like this.
In Masha’s words, the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, was “begun as a way to allow the voices of Afghan women—too often silenced—to enter the world directly, without any mediation.” The women, some of them students at Kabul University, some of them survivors of refugee camps, some of them witnesses to hardships of life under the Taliban, must make their way to a computer, which is a struggle in itself. The teachers, who sign up for a rotation of a few weeks, post lectures and exercises. (Write about a place that was important to you, for example. Or, write about a smell.) There’s so much about Afghanistan in the newspapers, but it’s just not the same as reading an account by one woman, as I did the other night, of her meeting with Afghan President Karzai. One of the most important aspects of being a writer is having something to say, and these women definitely do.
So, if you’d like to read more, please go over to the blog site, which is where a lot of these essays are published. You can find it at http://awwproject.wordpress.com Then please comment on their essays and add your words to theirs.
Sola! (which means peace.)