2. 'A Fort of Nine Towers,' by Qais Akbar Omar
Recounting a different kind of loss is A Fort of Nine Towers, carpet designer and businessman Qais Akbar Omarâ€™s story of his Afghan childhood. â€śIn the time before the fighting, before the rockets, before the warlords and ... before the Taliban,â€ť begins Omar, â€śwe lived well.â€ť
Omar grew up in a large and well-connected Afghan family. He and his parents and siblings and cousins enjoyed a comfortable life in Kabul, a city whose walled gardens and centuries-old traditions he recalls with pride.
But Omar was just a young teen when the world he knew began to fall apart. War and violence pushed his family out of their home and finally out of Kabul. Forced into a nomadic lifestyle, they faced perils and hardships they never could have imagined, turning Omarâ€™s story into a travelogue and exploration of Afghanistan and its many ethnic groups. After many dramatic turns of fortune, Omar and his family finally return to Kabul â€“ now a shadow of the city they once loved.
Omar works in the style of a fabulist. In his prose, fields are never just green but are instead â€śhigh mountain pastures that stayed lush all summer from the last of the melting snow.â€ť
But Omarâ€™s poetic language suits his subject. His memoir is rich in details about Afghan life and culture and leaves readers with the feel of a painfully contemporary Afghan fairy tale â€“ frequently tragic, occasionally lovely, and still in search of a happy ending.