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"Light of Ashes"

Former child-bride’s novel becomes best-seller in Afghanistan

By WITW Staff on July 19, 2016

A book, part-fiction and part-memoir, by former child-bride Zahra Yaganah has become one of the fastest-selling books in Afghanistan, according to her publisher. Yaganah has said that Light of Ashes, which was released in March, is intended to help women break free of abusive marriages, and to spread awareness of the plight of Afghanistan’s women and child brides.

Two of the characters in the semi-fictional account appear with real names — one is Zahra herself, whose life is based off of the author’s experience of being married off at the age of 13 to a man twice her age. The other character to appear with a real name is Zahra’s daughter, Narges. Yaganah gave birth to Narges at age 14, and, due in part to her mother’s young age, the baby developed a disorder that took her life at the age of four.

Yaganah says that marital sex in Afghanistan is often tantamount to rape. As a young teenager, she says she had no conception of penetrative sex on her wedding night. The morning after her wedding, she says she woke up in a hospital. Yaganah’s married life, she said, was defined by regular beatings and going to work to sustain her husband’s drug habit. One night, when Yaganah had failed to bring her husband money, she and her two surviving children woke to find the house on fire and the door and windows barred. She and her children were rescued by neighbors, but Yaganah had finally had enough. She filed for divorce and fled to Kabul, where she found work and rebuilt her life.

Her book, largely based on her own experiences, nearly sold out its first 1,000 copies within three months — one of the fastest sellers of the last decade in Afghanistan. “It’s impossible for Afghan women to read this book and not find an issue that reflects their life story,” says Yaganah. “Women can find their path, despite all the problems they have.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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