This powerful, inspiring book tells the story of an ambitious Afghan girl who seeks to fulfill her promise to her mother, fight for the right to education, and empower girls.
Zynab lives in a small village in Afghanistan where education is deemed unnecessary for girls and even frowned upon. But Zynab’s family and life are very different from other girls in her village. Her father is a teacher who began teaching her Rumi’s poetry when she was only five. One poem, in particular, inspires
and encourages her:
“You were born with potential.
You were born with divine energy.
You were born with wings.
You were born with greatness,
Fly, don’t crawl.”
Zynab’s life is turned upside down when her mother suddenly dies from an easily treatable disease because she refuses to see a male doctor. Now, it falls to Zynab to find a way to take her blind brother to India for the surgery that will restore his eyesight. Zaynab’s quest to finish high school intensifies, as she knows she’ll never make enough money without a high school diploma. With the help of Cindy, a US Peace Corps nurse, and longtime family friend, Zynab sets out to achieve her education dreams and fulfill her last promise to her mother.
Zynab is inspired by actual events and portrays the real lives of girls and women in Afghanistan. It vividly shows their struggles against violence, forced marriage, and misogyny. It is a story about family bonds, redemption, friendship, and resilience in the face of despair. It takes readers beyond the headlines about war and transports them into a country with a unique culture, people, and history.
Zynab’s story will move, inspire, educate, and maybe even change how you think about America’s longest war.
A memoir and a novel with a shared story
After completing the first draft of Open Your Eyes, I realized how profoundly characters like Jamal had influenced my father, Dr. Mehdi Mostamand. I started thinking about continuing the story of Jamal’s family in a second book. My interest in Rahim, his son Jamal, and his daughter Zynab grew as I worked through the second draft. By now, I knew I had to continue their story, which meant I needed to find out what had happened to them. Where were they now? Had Jamal regained his vision?
The last verifiable information I had about the family was from 1990 when Haider wrote to my dad and informed him that Rahim and Jamal were still working at Mujadella Trachoma. Jamal’s sister, Zynab, was also volunteering with the project.
I began my search to locate the family and write a second book about the life of Jamal, Rahim, and Zynab. I contacted everyone I knew in Herat. I heard many stories about them but couldn’t locate them. Since I could not contact the family directly, I wrote this book based on the stories I heard from people who knew Jamal and his family. It is fiction inspired by actual events rather than nonfiction, as all my information is secondhand. I found the story of Zynab, Jamal, and Rahim so inspiring that it didn’t matter whether it was fact or fiction. I just wanted to write about them based on what others had to say. I hope the information I got is accurate and that one day, I will find Jamal or Zynab and work with them to write their story as a memoir.
This is a standalone book, not part of a series. However, you may find it more enjoyable if you know the true story of Jamal’s family, which you can read in Open Your Eyes.