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Book Bites: 12 April 2015

The Underground Girls of KabulThe Underground Girls of Kabul: The Hidden Lives of Afghan Girls Disguised as Boys
Jenny Nordberg (Little Brown)
Book buff
There have always been women who pass themselves off as men – but in countries where women’s lives are severely restricted the practice takes on a particular poignancy. In Afghanistan, a young daughter passed off as a son is called bacha posh. The advantages for a family are many – from social status to a pair of working hands. But what happens when the girls reach puberty and are expected to give up the freedom they enjoyed as boys? With astonishing access and moving insight, Jenny Nordberg traces the transitions of some extraordinary girls and women in contemporary Afghanistan. A riveting story.
– Jacqui L’Ange @jaxangel

Before the FireBefore the Fire
Sarah Butler (Picador)
Book monster
Stick is one unlikable character – arrogant, self-centred and not too bright. In other words just another 18-year-old lad living in Manchester. Just as there is a glimmer of hope, his best friend Mac is killed the night before they are supposed to go on their epic road trip to the sunny beaches of Malaga. Stick can’t deal with Mac’s death and fobs off all the love and support his family gives, choosing instead to spend time with the equally troubled J. Way too much angst.
- Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt

Jill Alexander Essbaum (Mantle)
Book fling
Intellectual literary erotica is not your 50 Shades of Grey. The sex does not necessarily titillate, nor does it disgust, but forms part of a brutally honest personal history. Anna is a housewife living an isolated life in her husband’s country, Switzerland. Doktor Messerli, her analyst, believes her life is like a bucket with a hole, leaking happiness and in need of repair. But as the storyline progresses in a plait of three threads, the question becomes whether the bucket is simply too heavy to bear. Essbaum’s flat poetic prose delivers a work of art.
- Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Race, Class and PowerRace, Class and Power: Harold Wolpe and the Radical Critique of Apartheid
Steven Friedman (UKZN Press)
Book buff
Harold Wolpe was an anti-apartheid activist perhaps best remembered by the masses for his daring escape from a Johannesburg jail. In this social biography, however, he is recast as one of South Africa’s foremost intellectuals. The author’s lucid writing and analysis put him in the same class as Mark Gevisser. Friedman’s book is a fine scholarly work told in a fascinating manner that makes it accessible to wider audiences.
– Bhekisisa Mncube @BhekisisaMncube

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