What Does a Teenage Girl in Afghanistan Read? (Or watch?)

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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF SULTANA

“I wake up early before anyone else in my family. For 30 minutes I bike and listen to music. And then I make tea for myself and drink it and read a book. Most of the time I read philosophy in the morning. And then I do some calculus problems. I wake up at 6:00 and study until 11:00, and then I cook lunch. We eat it and wash dishes and then take a nap. I wake up again and then read sometimes or again make tea. And then time for dinner cooking. Me and my sister-in-law cook again, and wash dishes and sleep, and then repeat.”

Sultana does calculus problems and reads philosophy for fun. Not because her guidance counselor told her she will need calculus to have a better chance at getting into the right college degree program. Not because she’s taking an intro to philosophy course during her freshman year at college. Quite the opposite. Her community forbids her to attend school, and her parents think an education is pointless for a girl in Afghanistan today.

IMG_5759WHAT SULTANA’S READING

I asked Sultana what she has been reading lately. The first book she mentioned was Hallucination by Oliver Sacks. “Whenever I read Oliver Sacks,” Sultana says, “I love life even more.” Other authors she has enjoyed lately are: Carl Sagan (Pale Blue Dot), Robin Sharma, and Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie).

Most of her books she downloads from the internet. However, when she traveled to Karachi, Pakistan to take the SAT exam (we’ll tell you that crazy story another time), she did have the pleasure of buying a few physical books to stock her shelves.

AMERICAN MOVIES

I’ve heard stories from my friend Hassan about growing up in Egypt and watching American movies on television. I asked Sultana if she had seen any American movies. I expected the selection to be fairly limited, given the extreme censorship she describes when it comes to books.

“The first American movie I ever saw was Hangover,” she told us. We all laughed in surprise. The Pursuit of Happyness was another,” she said, which gave us a little more hope about how we’re represented in the rest of the world. Then she listed off a few others: Man Up, House of Wax, Saw, and The Dictator.

Faraz summed it up best with, “Wow. Those are some shining examples of our culture there.”

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Story by Courtney Ball. Photos provided by Sultana. (Except for the one of The Dictator. That was pirated via Google image search.)