For my last review of 2019 I have found a real cracker! Books like this are essential reading because such a book almost comes with a guarantee that no matter how bad you think your life is, no matter how badly you think you've been treated, there's always someone worse-off than you who has struggled through their difficulties and found a life worth celebrating on the other side.
This book was also highly educational in that it reveals the shortcomings of groups that while admirably seeking to help refugees, also inadvertently fail them in really taking care of newcomers, leaving them feeling lost and abandoned just when they were starting to hope their troubles were over. No one in their right mind wants to stand around handing out peeled grapes to someone reclining indolently on a couch, but once you have taken charge of someone's welfare, it is incumbent upon you to see it through to the point where the people you are supposedly helping can stand unaided and take care of themselves. Rescue followed by abandonment halfway through the job does no-one any good, least of all the nation that's adopting the refugees.
Farah Ahmedi was born in Afghanistan - where the people are called Afghans, and they don't speak "Afghani," which is not a language, but their currency! A dozen or more languages are spoken there, the most common of which is Dari, also known as Afghan Persian and Farsi, which is what this author calls it. Farah was born into the Hazara ethnic group, the third largest, concentrated toward the center of the country. She had her earliest years in quite a large family in the time right before the Taliban destroyed Afghan culture, and so had the chance to experience a life without being hidden under a blanket, and which included school, but she had very little of that, because at the age of around 7, running late for school and taking a shortcut across a field, she stepped on a landmine.
She spent the next two years or so alone in Germany being fixed, which in her case meant having pins put into her good leg, because her knee was infected, and having a good portion of her other leg amputated because it was too badly damaged to fix. So she had a 'good' leg she was unable to bend, and a leg she was able to bend, but which was artificial. The Germans took good care of her and fitted her with a prosthetic leg and foot. Returning to Afghanistan, she felt a certain amount of alienation because her own culture now seemed so small and primitive compared with her mind-expanding experiences in Germany, where she had begun learning their language and forgetting her own.
Any relief she may have had at returning was soon stomped on by the Taliban which moved into Kabul like a disease. While out shopping for Afghan clothes now that Farah had decided to give up the western outfits she had worn in Germany, a rocket landed on her home, killing most of her family and leaving only herself, her mother, and two brothers, who quickly had to flee the country because the Taliban was enforcing military recruitment: every family had to give up a son to the Tali-whackers. The problem was that the Taliban would rather shoot than recruit the Hazara ethnic people, so the two young boys fled to Pakistan at their mother's insistence. Farah never saw her brothers again nor learned what happened to them.'
This began a nightmare for Farah and her mother because they too, were forced to flee, and were lost to a system of deprivation, endurance, bribery and hopelessness. They made it to Pakistan, and learned of a faith program aimed at helping war-torn Afghan families move to the USA. The problem was that they were approved right before 9/11 and so lost their chance to go, but later they managed to make the trip, dreaming of a better life only to find they were largely abandoned once they had been settled in the USA.
Farah seems to have placed far too much faith in her religion which did practically nothing for her, and little to none in people who were really the ones who helped her. Despite barely speaking any English and having no money and no jobs, and no facilities, they were essentially told, after the settling-in period, that they must fend for themselves now. Finally, due to the kindness of one family in particular, they were able to properly make the transition, and Farah wasn't done overcoming obstacles even then. Fortunately, she had a facility for languages and a dedication to achieving her goals which was beyond admirable, and she almost single-handedly kept herself and her mother afloat until life, finally, eased for them.
This is a story of triumph and heroism that the likes of Marvel and DC comics can never hope to match and that alt-right assholes can never begin to understand or appreciate. People like Farah Ahmedi are not a burden on a nation, but the backbone of it, and one can only hope and dream that a disturbingly large forty percent of the US population will one day come to understand that.