I picked up However Tall the Mountain by Awista Ayub at the library while I was checking out few children’s DVDs for Bella. From the book cover, it was very obvious what it was about (Eight girls and their dreams, soccer, Muslim and its culture, etc.) which I normally don’t go for when I pick out a book. But that day, I was in the “mood” to be inspired by a true story filled with hope. And this book was exactly that. A true story. Overcoming cultural barriers and still in process of overcoming so many more. Hope and possibility….
Coming from a background of being a “foreigner” in another country, I understood the identity “crisis” that the author described in the book. Many of us become “Americanized” and lost the culture and customs of our homeland. Whether that is good or bad, it certainly does bring quite a confusion to a person, especially considering one of the major parts of human nature, a desire to belong. I worry about that for my own child and pray that she will embrace the diversity within her and all the wonderful and beautiful things that she brings to this world because she is “different.”
Aside from the author’s own emotional journey, it was quite an experience to walk through the lives of the eight Afghan girls, who simply want to play soccer, and their struggles as women in a male dominant society with a male-oriented religion. I’m not here to criticise anther religion for sure (for it is not up to me to judge for the judgement belongs to the creator, the Almighty God) but it would definitely make me wonder about the validity of such religion that allows women to be treated not only unequally and unjustly but also with such hostility and abuse. We certainly have come a long way in this country as far as the women’s rights are concerned and most definitely not without numerous fights and sacrifices, almost too many. Still it doesn’t make it easier when you have to walk through it again, even in the form of others’ story.
While reading this book, I noticed that I was not too astonished to read about the degraded lifestyle of these girls. To tell the truth, sometimes I expected the worst! And then, I realized that it was because I was so used to hearing and reading about these stories of devalued life of women through the media so much that I almost took it as a part of reality and something that can not be changed. I have become too numb to such stories and that saddened me…. It was encouraging to see, however, what little can inspire people and how far these little help can take people to. It doesn’t take much to make little girls smile even in such horrible conditions and it certainly doesn’t take much to help them dream and shoot for the possibilities out there.
I thought I knew the country of Afghanistan and its people but this book certainly gave me different perspectives and things to ponder. When you are beaten down to the ground over and over again as people in Afghanistan have in the past few decades, it’s hard to get back up again. But once you get back up, you are unbeatable and ever so victorious. I pray that this country doesn’t fall back ever again but always move forward….
Awista Ayub was born in Afghanistan and immigrated to the United States in 1981. She founded the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange in 2003.