We gave it a B+
In 2002, looking for a little adventure and escape from a sour second marriage, hairdresser and self-described party girl Deborah Rodriguez left Michigan for Afghanistan. She intended to bandage wounds and splint broken limbs, but decided that what Kabul really needed were lessons in spiral perms and bikini waxing. And so, with contributions from Western cosmetic companies, Rodriguez opened an academy for beauticians in a city where many women still hid under burkas.
Her bighearted and entertaining memoir, Kabul Beauty School, has a gossipy, conversational style familiar to anyone who’s gotten highlights, but Rodriguez never shies away from the misery and oppression she encounters in the poor, rigidly patriarchal country. Her experiences range from the slapstick (watching bemused Afghan women open a crate of thong underwear) to the heartbreaking, as she realizes she is powerless to stop the sexual exploitation of a teenage student. There are gaps in her account that you could ride a camel through — why did this two-time divorcée wed an Afghan with a wife and seven children after knowing him all of 20 days? But as she blithely puts it, ”I hardly ever deliberate before taking action. I just do, occasionally with disastrous results.” Sometimes, as with this book, the results are delightful. B+