Meena, Heroine of Afghanistan: The Martyr Who Founded RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Melody Ermachild Chavis, Author, Alice Walker, Foreword by St. Martin's Press $19.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-312-30689-2
Early on in her tribute to Meena, an Afghan woman who founded and led the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan before being assassinated in 1987 at age 30, Chavis tells the legend of another martyred Afghan, Malalai, who was supposedly shot while inspiring her compatriots to defeat the British in 1880. It is a glorified portrait, revealing little more than Malalai's nationalistic bravery. Unfortunately, Chavis' glowing, saccharine telling of Meena's life provides about the same level of insight, reducing this leading Afghan feminist to a storybook heroine. Chavis describes Meena as a selfless, tireless saint who, despite personal tragedy and physical illnesses, never complained and worked each day to help others until she passed out from exhaustion --a cliched rendering that, while perhaps true, makes for a one-dimensional biography. Just as Chavis' characterizations lack the quirks and complexities needed to bring people to life, her inadequate historical and political background, peppered with such phrases as""flickering flame of freedom,"" wants for sophistication and nuance. According to the author's note, she spent months in Afghanistan, interviewing Meena's friends and acquaintances. Instead of drawing on the voices of her subjects, however, Chavis largely reconstructs the story from Meena's imagined point of view, a strategy that leads to simplistic, emotive writing. The level of analysis and prose style of this biography will disappoint most adult readers, but may be more appropriate reading for young adults. 10 halftones throughout.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-4299-7190-4
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