Come Back to Afghanistan
In June 2002, 17-year-old Said Hyder Akbar ditched his Tahoe- and Cancún-bound friends in California for a summer of dodging al-Qaeda ambushes, translating for warlords, and identifying bodies with his father, Fazel, then chief spokesman for Hamid Karzai, president of post-Taliban Afghanistan. Born in Peshawar but raised near Oakland, the teen felt a compulsion to probe his cultural roots after 9/11. Luckily for readers, he’s produced a cogent narrative of three eye-opening trips to the region in Come Back to Afghanistan. Honest and precociously articulate, Akbar, now 20, filters complex Afghan traditions and history through a pop-culture lens (he likens a meeting at Karzai’s palace to ”Lollapalooza — like going backstage and getting to meet all the rock stars”).