Book Club Feature: The Underground Girls of Kabul

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

The Underground Girls of Kabul From Left toWrite Book Club

Our first September Book Club selection is The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg. I’ve already finished reading it, and I can’t wait to discuss it with our members.  You’ll definitely want to pre-order the book now because journalist Jenny Nordberg jumps right into a hidden practice of Afghanistan:

In Afghanistan, a culture ruled almost entirely by men, the birth of a son is cause for celebration and the arrival of a daughter is often mourned as misfortune. A bacha posh (literally translated from Dari as “dressed up like a boy”) is a third kind of child – a girl temporarily raised as a boy and presented as such to the outside world. Jenny Nordberg, the reporter who broke the story of this phenomenon for theNew York Times, constructs a powerful and moving account of those secretly living on the other side of a deeply segregated society where women have almost no rights and little freedom. 

The Underground Girls of Kabul 
is anchored by vivid characters who bring this remarkable story to life: Azita, a female parliamentarian who sees no other choice but to turn her fourth daughter Mehran into a boy; Zahra, the tomboy teenager who struggles with puberty and refuses her parents’ attempts to turn her back into a girl; Shukria, now a married mother of three after living for twenty years as a man; and Nader, who prays with Shahed, the undercover female police officer, as they both remain in male disguise as adults. 

At the heart of this emotional narrative is a new perspective on the extreme sacrifices of Afghan women and girls against the violent backdrop of America’s longest war. Divided into four parts, the book follows those born as the unwanted sex in Afghanistan, but who live as the socially favored gender through childhood and puberty, only to later be forced into marriage and childbirth. The Underground Girls of Kabul charts their dramatic life cycles, while examining our own history and the parallels to subversive actions of people who live under oppression everywhere.

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg


The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg releases September 16, 2014 but pre-order it now. Seriously, it’s good. You’ll want to crack it open after reading From Left to Write members’ discussion on September 16.

Whether you’re reading the book solo or with your book club, download the Reader’s Guide to Underground Girls of Kabul.

Follow Jenny Nordberg via her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Book Club Feature: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino

2AM at Cat's Pajamas FL2W Book Club Banner

We’re ushering the last days of summer with a jazzy book club feature for August: 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas (Crown) by Marie-Helene Bertino. I know you’ve been doing plenty of summer reading, but don’t the warm days pass you by without immersing yourself into streets of Philadelphia at The Cat’s Pajamas jazz club:

Madeleine Altimari is a smart-mouthed, rebellious nine-year-old who also happens to be an aspiring jazz singer. Still mourning the recent death of her mother, and caring for her grief-stricken father, she doesn’t realize that on the eve of Christmas Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day—and night—of her life. After bravely facing down mean-spirited classmates and rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her on-stage debut. On the same day, her fifth grade teacher Sarina Greene, who’s just moved back to Philly after a divorce, is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high school crush, afraid to hope that sparks might fly again. And across town at The Cat’s Pajamas, club owner Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever, unless someone can find a way to quickly raise the $30,000 that would save it.

As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night.

I met author Marie-Helene Bertino during Crown Publishing’s gathering at BEA and she sang a jazz number for the crowd. Let me tell you, she’s so sweet and has a great voice! Clearly the music inspires her.

Marie-Helene Bertino singing jazz

Marie-Helene Bertino singing (sorry for blurry photo-it was dark!)

Pick up a copy of 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas  and join From Left to Write members on August 28 as we discuss the novel.

2 AM at The Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bartino


Want to see what books are on Marie-Helene’s nightstand? Learn more about Marie-Helene Bertino at her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.


October Book Club Announcement: The Dinner by Herman Koch

The Dinner By Herman Koch

Ready for our second October book club selection? Our members have been reading international best seller The Dinner by Herman Koch.   Two brothers and their wives dine together at a formal restaurant to discuss an important, life-changing incident that has occurred within their family. What is being left unspoken over the course of their meal is even more important than their tension filled verbal exchanges.

Here’s more:

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

Intrigued? Grab a copy of the book and join us on October 29 as From Left to Write members discuss The Dinner by Herman Koch. Make sure to make this cocktail inspired by The Dinner to enjoy as you read.

Follow Herman Koch on Facebook or visit his website. (They’re written in Dutch but I think you can find some translating tools to help you out.)

You can also follow the publisher Hogarth Books on Twitter!

April Book Club: Afterwards by Rosmand Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

The beginning of spring brings new book club selection here at From Left to Write.  For April, our book club members are traveling to England as we read and discuss Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. This novel will grip its readers from the very beginning. It’s part suspense, part thriller, but at its core is a story about love and motherhood.

When her children’s school is set ablaze, Grace runs into the burning building to rescue her teenage daughter, Jenny. In the aftermath, badly injured, Grace learns the police have identified the arsonist, but they have blamed the wrong person. Only Detective Sarah McBride, the sister-in-law Grace has never liked, is searching for the real arsonist–a hunt that becomes urgent when it’s clear Jenny is still the perpetrator’s target.  Page-turning suspense combines with a beautiful portrayal of deep family bonds to make this a stunning and riveting read.

Once you start reading, it’ll be hard to put down the book. (I say that from personal experience.)

Grab your copy of Afterwards and join us on Thursday, April 11 for the book club discussion.

You can also find Rosamond Lupton at her websiteFacebook page, and on Twitter.

Have you read Aftewards? What are your thoughts on it?

January Book Club Announcement: The Expats by Chris Pavone

The Expats by Chris Pavone

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Our book club members are starting out 2013 with a bit of intrigue and mystery. In the thriller The Expats by Chris Pavone, we travel with protagonist Kate Moore to Luxemburg.  She leaves her secret behind to start a new life, but it’s not as easy as she thinks:

Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.

She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—playdates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and never-ending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, at a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they say they are, and she’s terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun, a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money, and finally unravels the mind-boggling long-play con that threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

Grab your copy of The Expats and join us on January 22 as From Left to Write members discuss secrets, intrigue and double-lives.

The Expats is currently available in hardcover and e-book, but paperbacks are currently available for pre-order.

November Book Club Announcement: The Headmaster’s Wager

Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

A new month means a new book club feature for From Left to Write. In November we are reading Vincent Lam’s lastest novel, The Headmaster’s Wager (Hogarth). We’re doing a bit of arm chair traveling as Lam whisks readers to Vietnam, specifically to Saigon in the 1960s. Inspired by his grandfather’s actual English academy during the same setting, Lam deftly creates Percival, a Chinese man living in Vietnam.

Here’s more about the novel:

Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English academy in 1960s Saigon, and he is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of his school. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country, though he also harbors a weakness for gambling haunts and the women who frequent them. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, but when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away.

In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage whom he is able to confide in. But Percival’s new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.

Grab your copy of The Headmaster’s Wager  now and join us on November 16 as we discuss the novel!

In the meantime, you can follow author Vincent Lam by visiting his website, Facebook or Twitter.