cover image The Last Thousand: One School and the Future of Afghanistan

The Last Thousand: One School and the Future of Afghanistan

Jeffrey E. Stern. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-04993-3

American journalist and aid worker Stern immerses himself in the slums of Kabul that surround the Marefat School, one of the most successful private schools in Afghanistan, to provide a glimpse into the lives of everyday people grappling with the effects of war. Stern frames the narrative with a troubling question: how will the school change when the American troops leave Afghanistan? Using a countdown to build tension, the book closely follows select students, workers, and the famed principal while exploring the complex history of Afghanistan, Islam, and the Hazaras, one of the country’s most vulnerable minority groups. Though at times the narration can be clunky, it makes intricate issues accessible. At its best, Stern’s prose can be quite lyrical and poetic, and he goes to great lengths to explore the nuances of religion, education, women’s rights, and foreign diplomacy in present-day Afghanistan. This book is a good primer for anyone interested in modern Middle Eastern politics. Agent: Gary Morris, David Black Agency. (Jan.)