Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman

I would venture to guess that most Americans know little about Afghanistan, other than what they see on their televisions.  Though I have read a few books set in Afghanistan, I am largely ignorant of Afghani culture and life.  The Honey Thief, by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman, delves into stories that reflect the values and culture of Afghanistan.  In addition, it presents a resilient, courageous people who have endured much hardship in the preservation of their culture.

The focus of The Honey Thief is the Hazara people of Afghanistan.  They are a group that is often oppressed and scapegoated, perhaps because of their ancient ties to the Mongolians. The Hazaras are hardworking and close-knit, and they share close family and tribal bonds.
Our storyteller, Najaf, leads us through several tales of Afghanistan.  Most of the stories are interconnected, introducing characters in one story that will appear in the next.  Some of the stories concern Afghan history, such as “The Life of Abdul Khaliq” and “The Death of Abdul Khaliq”.  Others are about daily life, such as “The Wolf is the Most Intelligent of Creatures”.  Still others are about the impact of war, such as “The Russian”.  All of the tales offer insights into Afghani culture and customs.
I found myself intrigued and surprised by the details of Afghani life that were revealed in these stories.  The differences between Western culture and Afghani culture are many, but the authors did an admirable job in presenting the Afghani mindset clearly and respectfully.  I found myself understanding more about this beautiful culture and people.
At the end of the book, there are some recipes for food that would be served in Hazara households.  While you absolutely could use these recipes to cook the dishes, the way they are written is charming and funny.  One recipe for a pasty called boulanee (p. 277) suggests that after you eat it, you should “thank God that you have the taste buds and the appetite to do justice to what you have fashioned”.  You need not plan to make any of these recipes to enjoy reading them.
The Honey Thief was an enjoyable way to learn more about a little known culture.  The tales covered a wide variety of topics, and they were each charming in their own way.  Recommended for those who want to expand their knowledge of other cultures.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Regina

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